Advocating clean water through art

Together with internationally acclaimed artist Aïda Muluneh, WaterAid and the H&M Foundation put the spotlight on women and the impact dirty water has on women’s lives and futures. The thought-provoking photo exhibition was showcased at Somerset House, London during the fall 2019.

The collection, called “Water Life”, was shot in the extreme landscape of one of the hottest and driest places on earth, Dallol, in northern Ethiopia. Globally, one in ten people have no clean water close to home. In Ethiopia, the figures are much worse with almost four in ten people being denied access to clean water, despite the significant progress the country has made over the past 20 years. An Ethiopian child dies every hour from the resulting diseases.

Ethiopian born Aïda explains her vision: “My main goal in building this collection is to address the issues caused by a lack of access to clean water, and the impact 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, advocate through art,” she continues.

“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.”

Aïda Muluneh

The Water Life exhibition was part of our Global Program for Water with WaterAid, which focuses on giving access to water and sanitation services for people in Ethiopia, Cambodia, Pakistan and Uganda.

“Aida Muluneh’s collection of photographs illustrate the stories of so many women and girls around the world who are urgently in need of access to clean water. Without this basic resource, women cannot meet their potential and are deprived of the opportunities to flourish that they deeply deserve,” Diana Amini, Global Manager at the H&M Foundation.

The collection was showcased at Somerset House in London September 24 – October 20 2020.

Aïda’s work captured by cultural video platform Nowness

To celebrate Aïda Muluneh’s exhibition at Somerset House, culture video platform Nowness collaborated with WaterAid to create a special episode of their Photographers in Focus series. Directed by London-based filmmaker Adeyemi Michael, the film captures Muluneh in process at her studio in Addis Ababa, and in the Danakil Depression, where she shot the Water Life series. The film is supported by H&M Foundation. Watch the film below.

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Global Program for Water

Across the world, women are forced to waste precious time walking long distances to collect dirty water. Girls are dropping out of school because there are no private toilets, and young children are not surviving to see their fifth birthday because of preventable diseases. The lack of clean drinking water and functioning toilets affects the lives of millions of people. More than 10% of the world’s population still live without safe water to drink and must drink water that can make them sick, and one in three live without a decent toilet. In the Global Program for Water, the H&M Foundation together with WaterAid, worked to change this.