Striking exhibition from Afrofuturist photographer Aida Muluneh on impact of unclean water on women

Posted by
Anna France Williams
6 June 2019
Ethiopia, Gender, Women and girls, Water
Image: WaterAid/Aida Muluneh

Internationally acclaimed Ethiopian artist Aida Muluneh launched her extraordinary ‘Water Life’ photography exhibition in Vancouver this week, which takes as its inspiration the impact of water or the lack of it on women’s lives, development and futures.

The twelve striking images can be viewed at the largest global event on gender equality, Women Deliver, from 3-6 June and are part of an innovative exhibition design by Canadian architect Mark Aseltine.

As part of an open commission supported by the H&M Foundation, charity WaterAid invited Aida Muluneh to create the works in response to one of its core concerns – lack of access to clean water. The artist, who settled in Saskatchewan, Canada in 1985 and was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, explores in this work ideas of representation, gender and social justice through an Afrofuturist tableaux of twelve images. Each piece addresses the impact of water scarcity as it relates to issues like women’s liberation, health, sanitation and education. 

While travelling across the country for her work, Aida would often encounter streams of women travelling on foot and carrying heavy burdens of water. Inspired by what she saw and experienced, Aida created some of the work in the extreme landscape of Dallol, Afar, Ethiopia.

Aida Muluneh said:

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

Diana Amini, Global Manager at the H&M Foundation said: 
“The H&M Foundation are pleased to have supported the production of this beautiful body of work alongside WaterAid and Aida Muluneh. We hope the exhibition will raise much-needed awareness of the urgent need for improved access to clean water for women globally. By adding our voices to the collective call for action we hope to see progress and ultimately, lives transformed.” 

Nicole Hurtubise, CEO of WaterAid Canada, said:

“One in three people around the world still don’t have access to clean water close to home which, in the twenty first century, is simply unacceptable.

“Access to clean water is fundamental for women’s and girls’ health and wellbeing, education and participation in decision-making. 

“This is why WaterAid is delighted to be partnering with Aida Muluneh on this project to reach a new audience and to continue to push for change so that women and girls everywhere gain access to clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene.”

‘Water Life’ will exhibit at the Women Deliver conference at the Vancouver Convention Centre from 3-6 June as part of WaterAid’s exhibition stand, booths 155 and 156. For more information:

For more information or for photos of the exhibition, please contact:

In Canada at the Women Deliver conference: 

Anna France-Williams, Senior Media Officer, [email protected], +44 7785 725387 or +44 (0) 207 793 5048

Aneesha Hampton, Communications Manager, [email protected] or +1 (613) 230-5182 or 1 514 571 7923

Or call our after-hours press line on +44 (0)7887 521 552 or email [email protected].

Notes to editors

Aida Muluneh

Aida Muluneh was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in 1974 where she currently lives. Aida left the country at a young age and spent an itinerant childhood between Yemen and England. After several years in a boarding school in Cyprus, she finally settled in Saskatchewan, Canada in 1985. In 2000, she graduated with a degree from the Communication Department with a major in Film from Howard University in Washington D.C. After graduation she worked as a photojournalist at the Washington Post.

Muluneh has been a jury member on several prominent photography competitions most notably the Sony World Photography Awards 2017 and the World Press Photo Contest 2017. In 2018 she exhibited “Being: New Photography 2018” at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

She is the Founder and Director of the Addis Foto Fest (AFF), the first international photography festival in East Africa hosted since 2010 in the city of Addis Ababa. She continues to educate, curate and develop cultural projects with local and international institutions through her company DESTA (Developing and Educating Society Through Art) for Africa Creative Consulting PLC (DFA) in Addis Ababa.


WaterAid is working to make clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene normal for everyone, everywhere within a generation. The international not-for-profit organisation works in 34 countries to change the lives of the poorest and most marginalised people. Since 1981, WaterAid has reached 25.8 million people with clean water and 25.1 million people with decent toilets. For more information, visit, follow @wateraid or @WaterAidPress on Twitter, or find WaterAid UK on Facebook at

  • 844 million people in the world – one in nine – do not have clean water close to home.[1]
  • 2.3 billion people in the world – almost one in three – do not have a decent toilet of their own.[2]
  • Around 310,000 children under five die every year from diarrhoeal diseases caused by poor water and sanitation. That's almost 800 children a day, or one child every two minutes.[3]
  • Every £1 invested in water and toilets returns an average of £4 in increased productivity.[4]
  • Just £15 can provide one person with clean water.[5]
  • To find out if countries are keeping their promises on water and sanitation, see the online database 

[1] WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) Progress on drinking water, sanitation and hygiene: 2017 update and SDG Baselines

[2] WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) Progress on drinking water, sanitation and hygiene: 2017 update and SDG Baselines


[4] World Health organization (2012) Global costs and benefits of drinking-water supply and sanitation interventions to reach the MDG target and universal coverage