Conversations on Culture #15: Aïda Muluneh in conversation with Karen Jenkins-Johnson

August 7, 2020

 

On August 7th, 2020, photographer Aïda Muluneh was in conversation with Karen Jenkins-Johnson. Ethiopian photographer, artist, and cultural entrepreneur, Aïda Muluneh’s (b. 1974, Ethiopia) vibrant photographs were recently acquired by MoMA and featured in their exhibition, Being: New Photography 2018. Her works express what it is to be an African woman, to encapsulate gender and identity, and to situate it within the colonial experience. Her most recent series, Mirror of the Souldraws from the artist’s day to day experiences living in Addis Ababa, the moments of uncertainty, and the subsequent global phenomena of having to embrace unpredictability. Looking to her background as a photojournalist, Muluneh uses this foundation of visual and symbolic language and blends it with the sentiments, intensity, and passion of poetry. The title of her new series comes from a line in  Nikki  Giovanni’s The Laws of Motion that reads, "The eyes however are the mirror to the soul.” Giovanni’s poems inspired Muluneh to likewise share what is within her, and to share it with fearless honesty. Muluneh’s vibrant photographs express what it is to be an African woman, to encapsulate gender and identity, and to position it within the post-colonial experience. She interrogates the foreign gaze, and also raises the awareness of the impact of photography in shaping cultural perceptions.