Artist Traces Her Biological Father’s History through Painting

Oklahoma artist, Ebony Iman Dallas, has been on a lifelong journey of exploring her roots. A biological father she has never known is the prominent inspiration for her exhibit “Through Abahay’s Eyes” or “Through My Father’s Eyes.” It’s a series of paintings chronicling the discovery of the history and heritage of her birth father that was more than 15 years in the making. The exhibit will be on display April 6-29 at The Paseo Plunge. The show begins two days after the anniversary of his death.

Ebony’s biological father, Said Osman, was a Somalian attending college in Oklahoma. He died under mysterious circumstances before she was born. She grew up with a photo of him in which sunglasses obscured most of his face. Everyone always said she had his nose and eyes, so that’s what she used to paint him. He was discovered hanging in his dorm room on April 4, 1980, one week after a violent altercation with police that ended with a gash on his forehead and him lying on the ground unconscious. Her mother claimed that the facts surrounding his death didn’t add up despite the suicide ruling.

Ebony was born and raised in Oklahoma. She was a toddler when her mother met Wayne Dallas. When the couple married, Wayne adopted her. He always treated her as if she was his own. Ebony feels her name is a wonderful representation of her three families. Her mother chose the name Ebony, Iman is Somalian, and Dallas for her adoptive father.

When Ebony was in college, a chance encounter led her to her long-lost family. In a nightclub, she met a man whose father was the best friend of her grandfather in Somalia. Her family hired a private investigator to find her, but they were unsuccessful since her last name had been changed. Now that the family has been reunited, Ebony has visited them in Africa eight times. She continues to incorporate her experiences into her work.