Ebony Iman Dallas is the featured artist at Joyce Gordon Gallery’s June 2019 Year of the Woman. Dallas’ work, “Through Abahay’s Eyes” (Through My Father’s Eyes), which is up through June 30, takes as its theme personal and political reclamation through paintings, drawings and etchings that illustrate her memoir.
Though Dallas writes of a nurturing relationship with her stepfather and mother who raised her, it is her biological father’s life – extinguished, before Dallas’s birth – that is explored here.
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All Dallas has of her father, Said Osman, is a ’60s photo and bloodshed, the kind of soul memories that haunt one’s gene pool— the police violence common in the history of black people in this country. (Osman died under suspicious circumstances a week after an encounter with the police at an Oklahoma college in 1980.) Yet, this is not the tributary the story follows. Love and eternity, not police violence, is the lead story here.
Gallery patrons trace the artist’s familial route home to Somaliland to meet her paternal grandmother, uncles and other members of an expansive village waiting to embrace this lost child, now found. Hers is a homecoming celebration like elder Malidome Somé, Ph.D. speaks of in his classic memoir: “Of Water and the Spirit” (1994) and Amos Tutuola, writes in his folktale, “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts” (1958). Some of us come out of the fire able to speak of it– “Through Abahay’s Eyes,” is such a triumph.
Raised in historic Oklahoma City, Dallas’ fateful journey begins in an almost magical way when a countryman recognizes her as her father’s daughter. It was as if Abahay was ‘keeping an eye on his girl’ at the San Francisco night club where Dallas met Hakim. “I know your family,” Hakim told the Bay Area transplant. “They have been looking for you.” In just one week, he introduces Dallas to her people. Only in the movies, right?
Dallas’s work chronicles her 15-year (re)membering journey through landscapes littered with bodies and coated with spilled blood. Yet through this traumatic parting of literal Red Seas by way of the Mississippi, sweet, salty and bitter seas Dallas finds her way home.
This body of work encourages those still scattered not give up hope. Perhaps we stride with Great Uncle Papa’s feet or whittle away with Aunt Cece’s hands, tasting life with great great-grannie’s lips. Despite the Maafa, or African Holocaust, we are a great people who are still here.
Ebony Iman Dallas will be giving an artist talk on Friday, June 21, 1019, 6:30-7:30 p.m., at Joyce Gordon Gallery, 406 14th Street, Oakland. Call (510) 465-8928 or visit joycegordongallery.com and ebonyimandallas.com