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Ethiopian artist Aida Muluneh is showcasing her extraordinary ‘Water Life’ photography series at Somerset House in association with WaterAid until 20 October.

Internationally acclaimed Ethiopian artist Aida Muluneh is showcasing her extraordinary ‘Water Life’ series at Somerset House, London, from 24 September, inspired by the impact of dirty water on women’s lives and futures.

The new display, which runs until 20 October, features 12 pieces commissioned by WaterAid with support from the H&M Foundation, and was shot in the extreme landscape of one of the hottest and driest places on earth, Dallol, Afar, in Northern Ethiopia.

The powerful Afrofuturist artwork responds to the urgent issue of a lack of access to clean water, which has a particularly devastating impact on the lives of women and girls.

Globally, one in ten people have no clean water close to home. In Ethiopia, the figures are stark, with almost four in ten people being denied access to clean water, despite the significant progress the country has made over the past 20 years. A child dies every hour from the resulting diseases.

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Behind the scenes: Aida Muluneh’s Water Life photography shoot in Dallol, Afar, Ethiopia. Photo by Neil Wissink/ WaterAid

Aida herself, whilst living in Ethiopia, has encountered streams of women travelling on foot and carrying heavy burdens of water. Her images express these harsh daily realities, which affect not only women’s progress but also the futures of their communities.

Taking inspiration from traditional ornamentation and body paint from across the African continent, the Ethiopian-born artist has explored not just issues of water scarcity and ecological emergency but also the vital role of art in advocacy and how Africa is represented in global media.

Aida Muluneh said: “My main goal in building this collection is to address the issues caused by a lack of access to clean water, and the impact that has not only on a society as a whole, but on women, particularly in rural regions.

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A woman’s work from Water Life collection by Aida Muluneh commissioned by WaterAid and supported by H&M Foundation

“We cannot refute that it is mainly women who bear responsibility for collecting water, a burden that has great consequences for our future and the development of our nation. My focus in this project was to address these topics without the cliché that we see in mainstream media. In a sense, to advocate through art.”

Neil Wissink, Photography Manager at WaterAid, said: “We’re so excited to be collaborating with artist Aida Muluneh and Somerset House on ‘Water Life’. Aida’s unique and compelling vision, expressed through this collection, not only brings women’s experiences centre-stage but also helps catalyse real change.

“We’re proud, as an NGO, to have been able to work with an artist of Aida’s calibre, bringing our issues to light in a wholly new and exciting way.”

Lead Image by Aida Muluneh in association with WaterAid

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