There is an almost otherworldly doubling in this photograph, which shows two iterations of the same figure: one faces the camera and raises a hand in a gesture of salutation, while the other looks ahead. Muluneh’s use of colorful makeup is inspired by body art from across Africa and allows her to physically construct a character out of her model. After living around the world, Muluneh returned to Ethiopia, where she founded the Addis Foto Fest, the first international photography festival in East Africa. Though she was born in Ethiopia, she has sometimes felt like an outsider due to many years spent elsewhere. This photograph bears the influence of that complicated experience of heritage. Drawn from her series The World is 9, which is named after a saying of her grandmother’s: “The world is nine; it is never complete and it’s never perfect.” With this series, Muluneh also recognizes the capacity of photography to convey the multiplicity and contradictions inherent in any individual.
Gallery label from Being: New Photography, 2018