For the first time, the Aga Khan Park’s serene reflecting pools are transformed into a dramatic exhibition venue. This free outdoor art installation, presented in partnership with the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival, presents large-scale portraits by photographer Aida Muluneh.
FROM ETHIOPIA TO CANADA AND BACK
“The images I saw of Ethiopia were always one-sided, and didn’t offer the complexities of the place I called home … hence, photography became my life’s passion.”
– Aida Muluneh, Canadian Art.ca
Ethiopian-born Aida Muluneh spent time as a child in Yemen, England, and Cyprus, before discovering photography as a student at Western Canada High School in Calgary. Since then, she has travelled the world both as a photojournalist and as a fine art photographer, and she often finds that the subject matter she explores for media outlets motivates her creative work. CONTACT’s artistic director Bonnie Rubenstein has drawn from four series of Aida Muluneh’s photography to curate Reflections of Hope, which brings 10 of the artist’s works to Toronto.
REFLECTING HOPE IN THE REFLECTING POOLS
The portraits in Reflections of Hope explore subjects such as slavery, war, colonialism, and human rights, using dramatic compositions and vivid colours. Each image employs costuming, sets, and make-up inspired by body decoration and craft forms from Ethiopia and other global traditional cultures. Set within the context of the Aga Khan Park, Muluneh’s images gain particular resonance, standing as a series of monuments to both the struggles and achievements of her compatriots and the African diaspora across history and the present moment.
Read CONTACT’s full essay on Reflections of Hope.
Born in Ethiopia in 1974, Aida Muluneh 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 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; her work can also be found in several international publications. As an exhibiting artist, Muluneh’s work has been shown in South Africa, Mali, Senegal, Egypt, Canada, United States, France, Germany, England, and China, to name a few countries. A collection of her images can be found in the permanent collection at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art, Hood Museum, and the Museum of Biblical Art, all in the U.S. She is the 2007 recipient of the European Union Prize in the Rencontres Africaines de la Photographie, in Bamako, Mali, as well as the 2010 winner of the CRAF International Award of Photography in Spilimbergo, Italy. As one of the leading experts on photography from Africa, she has been a jury member on several photography competitions, most notably the Sony World Photography Awards 2017 and the World Press Photo Contest 2017. She has been on panel discussions on photography at events such as African Union cultural summit, Art Basel, and Tedx/Johannesburg. Muluneh 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, Ethiopia. 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. Most recently, she was included in the 25th edition of the Museum of Modern Art’s biannual New Photography survey, and was a 2018 winner of the CatchLight Fellowship, which recognizes the novel use of photography to bring awareness to challenging social issues.