Review by Wanda Sabir
Ebony Iman Dallas is featured artist at Joyce Gordon Gallery’s iteration for June 2019, Year of the Woman. Dallas’s 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, drawing and etchings. Though Dallas writes of her relationship with her stepfather, who nurtured along with her mother her development into adulthood, it is her biological father’s life – life extinguished, before Dallas’s birth, that is explored here.
All Dallas has of her father is a ‘60s photo and bloodshed, the kind of soul memories that haunt one’s gene pool – police violence, a legacy not uncommon, a legacy visited too often on her kinsmen, our kinsmen, African Diaspora kinspeople throughout this nation. Yet, this is not the tributary “Abahay’s Eyes” follows. Dallas does not devote time to the tragedy that took her father before her birth. Love and eternity, not police violence, is the lead story here.
In Dallas’s work, which illustrates her memoir, “Through Abahay’s Eyes (Through My Father’s Eyes),” patrons trace Ebony Iman Dallas’s familial route home, home to Somaliland to meet 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.
In “Abahay’s Eyes,” Dallas, raised in historic Oklahoma City, sees herself through eyes shared with her beloved ancestor. The eyes of her father, Said Osman, live in his daughter’s face. Her dad, literally has an “eye on his girl” ‘cause Hakim, a Somali countryman, recognizes Dallas – in of all places a club in San Francisco – yes! Dallas a new Bay Area transplant. Hakim tells her: “I know your family. They have been looking for you.” In just one week, he introduces Dallas to her people. Only in the movies, right? Or in a life where Angels/Ancestors are watching over you.
“Eyes” tells a story, so many stories; however, how many are recognized given the fractured nature of African Diaspora existence? 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 – the wayfarer returns. Dallas finds her way home.
This transcontinental journey begins, is guided by “Abayna,” a father’s eyes, which never leave his beloved child. This body of work encourages those still scattered to 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-granny’s lips. Despite the Maafa or Black Holocaust, we are a great people who are still here. This Friday, June 21, Ebony Iman Dallas will be giving an artist talk, 7-9 p.m., at Joyce Gordon Gallery, 406 14th St., Oakland. Call 510-465-8928 or visit joycegordongallery.com and ebonyimandallas.
Bay View Arts Editor Wanda Sabir can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit her website at www.wandaspicks.com throughout the month for updates to Wanda’s Picks, her blog, photos and Wanda’s Picks Radio. Her shows are streamed live Wednesdays and Fridays at 8 a.m., can be heard by phone at 347-237-4610 and are archived at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/wandas-picks.