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Download “Ebola”

Collaborators’ Q&A

What is behind your choice of this piece of art in response to Ebola?
Artist Ira Joel Haber: I have fond memories as a kid of making sun prints, and so I went about playing with the paper and the sun. I placed two plastic figures I had on the paper and this was the result. I thought that it was a fitting image—strange, disturbing, and figurative.

Why did this piece of art resonate for you or seem like it would give you an avenue into writing about Ebola?
Poet Robbi Nester: I had worked with Ira before and knew that I had things to say about his artworks. This one in particular spoke to me because the sun prints reversed the blackness of the African victims of the disease and in general erased individuality, since they were only outlines, not portraits or even death masks. And one of the most tragic things about Ebola is that it deprives the survivors of their traditions, their way of taking leave of the dying and dead in the usual way. Instead, they have to consign everything to the fire. I wanted my poem to be about that, how the disease takes everything from them, victims and survivors alike.

What do you think is the role of art in regards to real-world, real-time events? In other words, what makes a “successful” occasional or political piece of writing or art?
Poet Robbi Nester: A meaningful response to real-world events in art does more than just retell the story. It delves into its meaning, comments on it, connects with it on a personal level. That’s what makes it worthy of surviving beyond the immediate event.

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