Sitting high up in the horn of the African continent lies gentle Ethiopia. A mountainous region of flowers, lakes, and tradition. Ethiopians are considered one of the most beautiful races in the world, and Aïda Muluneh helps us see this side of the country through photographs. For a long time, people viewed Africa as one big country while ignoring all the cultural diversity this continent holds. She hopes to change this.

Aïda Muluneh is one of Ethiopia’s most established photographers and a contemporary artist based in Addis Ababa. She first rose to prominence during her illustrious career as a photojournalist. Aïda Muluneh has won prizes for her work from the likes of the European Union Prize, CRAF International Awards, and the Sony World Photography Awards.

Muluneh told The Atlantic that ‘You can’t fantasize about making an impact in Ethiopia by being in New York or somewhere else, you have to actually be on the ground’.

Notable Art Works:

The World is 9

These images are bold, resonating and filled with life lessons. The World is 9 is a collection created in 2016 by Muluneh in which she expresses her what it means to return home after a prolonged period of truancy. Muluneh’s trademark blend of surrealism and social symbolism betrays a clear didactic flatness this time, almost as if to suggest that the tableau of progress risks seeming too facile. The images are of people, nations, and beings. Each stemming from the deep tradition of body art in Africa.

2. The 99 Series

This artwork strikes a hard note for those trying to piece together the past, present and future. It wraps us in turbulent thoughts of eternity. As one of the leading experts on photography from Africa, Muluneh, uses the images to tell a story. Each portrays a single, white-faced figure with red hands. Running vertically down the subject’s face are black dots. It was photographed against a simple, blurry-grey backdrop.

 Its colour palette, like that of many of Muluneh’s photographs, is breathtakingly bold—variations on the green, yellow, and red of the country’s flag, their vividness endowed with a painterly texture. 

3. The Wolf You Feed (2014)

Africa is no short of folklore, but this story stems from another land. It tells about the good and bad, and which you feed will thrive. The Wolf You Feed collection is made up of 10 images and is a reflection on the personal and outer battles that people face.

Although Muluneh’s work is photo-based, the artist’s intervention with the medium has transformed these figures and their setting into painterly canvases that references a visual vocabulary echoing identifiably Ethiopian and Pan-African visual cultures and symbols.

African photography is evolving, and the region is full of rising talent. Some of the most desirable, budding photographers tend to document contemporary cultures by comparing them with the complexities of old lifestyles.

Aïda Muluneh has declared firmly that she is “taking the past to the future” and that it doesn’t lack ambition, but as her gorgeous yet jarring images convey, she isn’t hawking soft assurance.

Capturing Ethiopia through the lens gives the world an opportunity to see this African country in all its cultural glory. We hope her artwork resonates with you.