Ebony Iman Dallas and The Afrikanation Artists Organization Seek to Grow Multicultural Arts Education in Oklahoma1
December 3, 2012 by oacjosh
EBONY IMAN DALLAS
Founder, Executive Director
Afrikanation Artists Organization
1) You grew up in Oklahoma City, moved away for school, and came back… Why did you come back to Oklahoma?
I came back to Oklahoma to be with my family as I was away for a very long time. Last year, I went to Somaliland/Somalia, the place my father was born, to work for 9 months. During that time I really missed my family in Oklahoma so it has been a blessing to return and be with them.
2) Tell us about the project you are working on with Somali art and artists.
In March 2010, I founded Afrikanation Artists Organization, a non-profit, NGO in Hargeisa, Somaliland/Somalia. AAO’s mission is to restore and support past, present and future Somali art culture. This is due in part to the destruction and looting of museums across the country during civil war and the lack of educational opportunities in the arts.
• The Afrikanation After-School Arts Program provides art classes for at-risk youth and girls utilizing our Past, Present and Future Art Curriculum
• Professional Development Workshops
BUILDING A PROFESSIONAL ARTIST NETWORK
• We have organized over 10 art shows locally and internationally showcasing artists
• Our website highlights individual artist profiles (www.afrikanationartists.org)
• The Afrikanation International Art Exchange Project allows artists to collaborate and showcase their art across borders
• The Afrikanation Art Supply Donation Drive has provided over 600 lbs of much needed art supplies to artists in this region
Featured Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F5mbr1xNgXQ&feature=plcp
COMMUNITY ADVOCACY AND OUTREACH
• As a team, we develop themed art shows to tackle health, educational and social challenges in the community. For example, in April 2012 we held a 3-Day artistic showcase entitled, “Sirta Tahriibta” (Dangers of Migration) which highlighted dangerous and often deadly forms of migration that are popular among many youth in Africa. Visual art, music and theatrical performances were shared during this event with over 400 were in attendance.
3) How does your work impact or relate to Oklahoma?
Through multicultural arts education. The Afrikanation International Art Exchange project first began with California-based artists, musicians and poets collaborating with artists in Hargeisa around the theme “Family Rituals and Traditions.” Beginning in Feb. 2013, these collaborations will expand to include 10 more artists in Hargeisa collaborating with 10 artists in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia online. The goal of this project is to develop mutual understanding and respect across cultures and we would love to include Oklahoma artists in this project in the future.
Feature collaboration/interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qXC3msn5xbo
4) What advice would you give to ONEAL members who want to start a new project or program?
I would highly recommend finding like-minded peers to collaborate with in the process. Be open-minded to new ideas and input because they can lead to places you could never have thought of on your own. Initially, the seed for Afrikanation was planted while developing my graduate school thesis. Because this was a part of my final thesis, many major decisions regarding the project were made in isolation. Upon graduation, I remembered one of the lessons in our Design Research class with advised us to “go out and ask the world what it needs, then create.” So I did. I did not believe Afrikanation would initiate in Somalia, however after meeting artists and conducting interviews, a great need was realized then the organization was developed in response.
So, I’d recommend interviewing people in the communities you plan to serve, do lots of research, find good partners then go for it! And never, ever give up! It’s a process and you must allow time for progress. Anything worth having that is built to last, needs time to grow.
5) What are your expectations for your project and work for the future and specifically how those expectations relate to the Oklahoma art scene?
To develop a more international presence by providing mutual opportunities for artists in Oklahoma and Africa to showcase their art internationally while developing sustainable partnerships across borders. The Afrikanation International Art Exchange Project is a step in that direction. We would also like to integrate the youth more into the process because they are our future and lasting change lies within them.
For more information on The Afrikanation International Art Exchange Project, visit www.afrikanationartists.org.