Discovering the work of African photographers has become a much simpler process, thanks to Aïda Muluneh’s new online portal. The famed Ethiopian photographer has launched AfricaFotoFair.com, an African-led digital art platform. "The site is really a virtual magazine that introduces people to photography coming from the continent and builds that connection,” she tells EBONY. “We just launched in December, we're going to be launching one edition per month.”
On the site, Munuleh highlights emerging artists and produces a podcast that features different photographers. “I found, after COVID, we needed to really push into the virtual world,” she explains. “Every year, there's new talent coming in and when I do Africa Foto Fest, we average about 800 photographers submitting from around the world, it's a pretty intense experience. But this is a way to find folks that haven't had the opportunity to exhibit. A lot of the times I've been the one to first showcase their work.”
AfricaFotoFair.com offers print sales to support its featured talent. "I have a printing facility, Africa Print House, which makes it a unique experience. That way photographers are able to sell and understand what the professional part of selling looks like.” It also allows a global audience to have hands-on support. “It’s an opportunity to purchase affordable prints,” Munuleh declares. “We're creating an ecosystem of a self-sustainable formula.”
Africa Foto Fair goes hand-in-hand with Addis Foto Fest, the biennial photography festival in East Africa that Muluneh launched in 2010. "As an African, my focus is supporting talent in the continent. But since our industry is a global industry, I find it important to also showcase images from everywhere," she shares. "In our last Addis Foto Fest in 2018, we featured 56 countries, photographers from Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Europe and North and South America. It's quite an extensive collection that we showcase." Aïda Muluneh Studio and Windsor Gallery are wrapping up the Africa Foto Fair "The African Collection" in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, Africa, which brings the continent to the world through images.
Muluneh is one of the most lauded photographers in the world. Known for her bold imagery of women in bright clothing and face paint, she says, “a lot of the coding that I put in there, it's mostly for the Ethiopian audience, because that's my first primary focus. I think Westerners or foreigners might read it as aesthetics, but those that really dig in, they have their own interpretation of what they see.” Her use of symbolism in her work, like adding an Ethiopian coffee pot, is a tribute to her native land’s heritage. “We are the originators of coffee—coffee started with us before it went to the Middle East. I use certain fruits and depending on the political statement that I'm making, the color palette that I choose has an impact. People who know my work well and have studied it, do recognize there's a pattern,” though she confesses that what is far more interesting is “for the audience's own interpretation of how they connect with the work.”
Muluneh's solo exhibition, The Art of Advocacy, is currently on display at Efie Gallery in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. And her work will be featured by Efie Gallery at Art Dubai beginning March 1.