Ethiopian Photographer Aida Muluneh’s Body Painting Pictures Will Stop You In Your Tracks

Aida Muluneh’s photographs are showstoppers—quite literally. Combining the shocks of color and crisp geometries of abstract painters like Frank Stella and the disturbing micro-thrills of Man Ray‘s fashion pictures (see: the mysterious extra pair of hands in slide 2, or the unlikely angle and skin color of the model’s reflection in slide 4) with the body painting, materials, and traditions of her native Africa, Muluneh’s pictures are designed to short-circuit your eye. They always stand out in a crowd, even in a group exhibition like “Being: New Photography 2018,” MoMA’s current survey of the photographic landscape where Muluneh’s work is featured. Although she was born in Ethiopia in 1974, as a child Muluneh lived in Yemen, Cyprus, England, Canada, and the U.S.—and therefore, as she has said before, felt like an outsider everywhere. After working as a photojournalist with the Washington Post, she returned to Ethiopia to explore her heritage through her photography. Now, after founding the Addis Foto Fest in 2010, Muluneh creates African images that speak to the world.

Aida Muluneh, Strength In Honor, 2016.

Courtesy of the artist.

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Aida Muluneh, Strength In Honor, 2016.

Aida Muluneh, All In One, 2016.

Courtesy of the artist.

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Aida Muluneh, All In One, 2016.

Aida Muluneh, Fragments, 2016.

Courtesy of the artist.

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Aida Muluneh, Fragments, 2016.

Aida Muluneh, Dreams and Delusions Part Two, 2016

Courtesy of the artist.

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Aida Muluneh, Dreams and Delusions Part Two, 2016

Aida Muluneh, Dinknesh Part One, 2016.

Courtesy of the artist.

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Aida Muluneh, Dinknesh Part One, 2016.

Aida Muluneh, Dinknesh Part Three, 2016

Courtesy of the artist.

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Aida Muluneh, Dinknesh Part Three, 2016

Aida Muluneh, Local Understanding, 2016.

Courtesy of the artist.

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Aida Muluneh, Local Understanding, 2016.

Aida Muluneh, Putting It Together, 2016.

Courtesy of the artist.

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Aida Muluneh, Putting It Together, 2016.

Aida Muluneh, City Life, 2016.

Courtesy of the artist.

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Aida Muluneh, City Life, 2016.

Aida Muluneh, The Wolf You Feed Part Two, 2014.

Courtesy of the artist.

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Aida Muluneh, The Wolf You Feed Part Two, 2014.

Aida Muluneh, Sloth, 2014.

Courtesy of the artist.

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Aida Muluneh, Sloth, 2014.

Aida Muluneh, The 99 Series Part Four, 2013.

Courtesy of the artist.

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Aida Muluneh, The 99 Series Part Four, 2013.

Aida Muluneh, The 99 Series Part Six, 2013.

Courtesy of the artist.

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Aida Muluneh, The 99 Series Part Six, 2013.

Aida Muluneh, The Departure, 2016.

Courtesy of the artist.

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Aida Muluneh, The Departure, 2016.

Aida Muluneh, Things Fall Apart, 2015.

Courtesy of the artist.

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Aida Muluneh, Things Fall Apart, 2015.

Aida Muluneh, The More Loving One, 2016.

Courtesy of the artist.

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