Home United States USA — Art The story behind this surreal portrait of Ethiopian identity

The story behind this surreal portrait of Ethiopian identity


In , we look at the power of a single photograph, chronicling stories about how both modern and historical images have been made.A former photojournalist, Aïda Muluneh now creates images that pose questions, rather than offering answers.Muluneh has spent years creating surrealist photographs of stately African women bearing symbols that reckon with conflict, history and power. Painted eye motifs — as well as her subjects’ unflinching gaze — represent the need to bear witness, chairs represent seats of influence, and curtains pull back to show the stagecraft of politics.Now, the Ethiopian artist’s images have taken over hundreds of bus shelters in New York, Chicago, Boston and her current home of Abidjan, Ivory Coast, through the exhibition « Aïda Muluneh: This is where I am, » commissioned by Public Art Fund, a New York City-based nonprofit.Though Muluneh’s work has already served as public art, including open-air exhibitions in Europe, « This is where I am » is her largest public installation to date. »Whenever I have an opportunity to display my work in very public spaces, I usually engage with those kinds of projects, » she said. « I’ve always believed you have to bring art to the people as well, not only contain it within elite spaces, or museums or galleries. »In onestriking image from the installation, titled « To speak in silence, » Muluneh uses a recurring object in her work — the traditional Ethiopian coffee pot, or jebena — as a call for open dialogue in her birth country.

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