Beyond Ebola: Fundraising and the Impact of Ebola on Music and Dance Tourism in Guinea

James B Morford. Africa Today. Volume 63, Issue 3. Spring 2017.

In Conakry, Guinea’s capital, on December 29, 2015, Guinean president Alpha Condé announced that the World Health Organization had officially declared an end to the Ebola outbreak in Guinea.1 The crowd assembled before him erupted in applause that lasted more than fifteen minutes. The next day, an estimated 100,000 people attended the “Bye-Bye, Au Revoir Ebola” concert at the Palais du Peuple in Conakry, with performances by some of the most popular mamaya, hip-hop, and reggae artists in the country.

I first learned of the declaration on the day of the concert by way of a phone call with a family member in the United States. At the time, I was traveling in a van with several Conakry- based musicians and dancers from Faranah to Sangariyah, a village outside of the town of Kindia, about seventy miles (113 km) northeast of Conakry. These Guineans were the staff for a drum-and-dance tourism camp hosted by a Guinean expatriate living in the United States. When I told them the news, their reaction was a mild acknowledgment of comprehension. Not even those giving near-constant attention to social media on their telephones had heard about it. Now, having learned of it, no one expressed excitement or joy.

The staff had been in Guinea throughout the Ebola outbreak, working professionally as musicians and dancers, and their lack of excitement was consistent with widespread skepticism about the disease among professional musicians and dancers based in Conakry. For some, the virus is believed to have been created and/or intentionally dispersed by people from Europe, North America, or China to exert greater influence over the region. Others believe that the danger of the virus was intentionally exaggerated by Condé to bring in funding from abroad. Regardless of the individuals or groups believed to be involved, Conakry-based musicians and dancers generally suspected that the outbreak was politicized in an economically driven way by one or more parties, and they recognized that this politicization had a negative economic impact on their lives.

Guinea recorded 3814 confirmed, probable, and suspected cases and 2544 deaths from Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) between March of 2014 and June of 2016 (WHO 2016a).2 Ebola is blamed for reducing the growth in the Guinean GDP from a projected 4.3 percent to -0.3 percent in 2014. This national economic stagnation continued through 2015, with a growth rate of 0.1 percent (World Bank 2016a). GDP loss for Guinea was estimated at $535 million in 2014 alone (Ippolito et al. 2015). Ebola was economically detrimental for nearly every sector of production and trade in the country (Kirigia et al. 2015).

Health officials and medical professionals in Guinea emphasize that the private and governmental responses to Ebola, not the disease itself, were economically crippling (Camara et al. 2016:563). These responses resulted in fear-driven changes of behavior, which in turn created economic effects greater than the direct costs, such as mortality, morbidity, caregiving, and the associated losses of working days (Ippolito, Puro, and Piselli 2015:1).

Specific factors contributing to the indirect economic losses in Guinea included a steep decline in construction, decreased agricultural activity, reduction in cross-border trading, and lower retail and market sales (Wojda et al. 2015). Border closings and quarantines isolated local markets. At production sites, reduced demand resulted in excess goods and a subsequent price collapse. Rubber, for example, dropped to 10 percent of its average price, and producers worked at massive losses (Diallo 2015:66). The isolation of local markets contributed to resource scarcity and subsequent price increases for basic goods, particularly in noncoastal regions. The cost of rice and small fish rose to six times the normal price in some nonproducing areas, in part because of scarcity and price gouging by merchants.

Among the most profound economic effects of Ebola on Guinean performing artists was the absence of drum-and-dance tourism camps in the winter of 2014-2015. Since the late 1980s, these camps had provided seasonal employment to an increasing number of local artists and support staff. They afforded income, mobility, and status to Guinean expatriates. In this article, I utilize ethnographic fieldwork data gathered between 2014 and 2016 in the United States and Guinea to examine intersections between Ebola and drum-and-dance tourism camps. I highlight the formation and activities of the Guinea Arts Cooperative (GAC), a community-driven organization that used the arts to raise funds for the social networks of Guinean expatriates living in Seattle. Finally, I position the GAC’s work among a species of actions that involved leveraging the Ebola outbreak, and interrogate the ethical ramifications of the GAC and its activities.

Ebola and Drum-and-Dance Tourism in Guinea

The impact of Ebola on tourism in Guinea has received little public attention; journalists and scholars have focused on the ramifications of Ebola on tourism in countries with few or no reported cases of infection, including The Gambia and Nigeria. This likely reflects the fact that international tourism represents a small proportion of the Guinean economy in relation to that of other countries in sub-Saharan West Africa. Since 1995, between 0.1 percent and 1.4 percent of the annual export earnings of Guinea have come from international tourism (WBG 2015b), with a reported annual average of less than $2.5 million in receipts (World Bank 2016b).

As of June 2016, no official estimates have been released on the economic loss in the tourism sector in earnings in Guinea, but most commentators suggest a massive drop-off coincided with warnings from the Centers for Disease Control and the cancellation or restriction of international flights to Guinea (Wojda et al. 2015). Drum-and-dance tourism camps typically occur each year during the dry season, between December and March; musicians and dancers who regularly teach or accompany classes for drum-and-dance tourists reported that no camps occurred during the 2014-2015 tourist season. The loss in that subsector, it seems, was total.

The World Bank Group statistics fail to account for much of the money injected into the Guinean economy through drum-and-dance tourism. The World Bank tracks incoming airline tickets and visa fees, both of which apply to drum-and-dance tourists; however, its statistics do not include the tuition fees for drum-and-dance tourists, which amount to between $1200 and $3000 each for room, board, and classes at a three-week camp. Any money spent by tourists on incidental costs and through gift giving goes untracked in official reports.

The number of seasonal camps and tourists associated with each camp varies from year to year and from facilitator to facilitator. Some facilitators host a single tourist for a month or longer. More commonly, facilitators host several tourists in multiple three- or four-week camps. Most camps are hosted in Conakry, with weekend excursions to the islands off of the Conakry peninsula’s southern tip, to sightseeing attractions, or to the facilitator’s family’s rural home. Music-and-dance tourism brings in substantial income to the personal and professional networks of facilitating host-artists. Sarah Lee Parker Mansaré and Mamady Mansaré facilitate camps in Guinea each year through their company, One World Dance and Drum, which hosted forty tourists in the 2013-2014 season. Sarah Lee Parker Mansaré told me in 2015: “We brought in something like 75,000 dollars from these trips. We left sixty-one [thousand dollars] … there.” The money generated and remaining in Guinea during the 2013-2014 tourist season by One World Dance and Drum alone was more than fifty times the average Guinean’s annual income, estimated at $1140 in 2013 (WBG 2015a). At least two dozen facilitators, including Sarah Lee and Mamady Mansaré, canceled camps during the 2014-2015 tourism season.

Most of the money generated in drum-and-dance camps goes to offset facilitators’ costs, pay musicians and other staff, and support family members and friends. Drummers hired to play for One World Dance and Drum camps receive about US $120 for each three-week camp. Support staff, too, receive salaries. One World Dance and Drum hired a cook for the 2015-2016 tourist season, paying 1.5 million Guinea francs to prepare meals for the tourists, the facilitators’ family, and the other staff for each of three camps. Altogether, in a three-month period, the cook earned the equivalent of approximately US $535, slightly less than half of the average Guinean’s annual income. The artists, cook, and other staff receive additional benefits from employment in drum-and-dance camps. One World Dance and Drum tour facilitators provide housing, food, water, security, equipment, and access to medical attention.

Family and friends have come to anticipate gifts from camp facilitators and trade or service earnings from tourists. They receive compensation for general housekeeping, including laundry services, which are generally not covered in the cost of a camp. In addition, people who travel to Guinea as tour facilitators often act as informal importer-exporters. Though the goods that they transport are seldom directly for sale, they are often provided to family members, friends, and associated artists without cost, and at a price drastically cheaper than is possible in Guinea. This is particularly true for high-quality electronic items, automobiles, and appliances, which are either used or resold.

The economic influx from drum-and-dance tourism filters into the surrounding community through incidental spending, which can amount to $500 for a single tourist during a three-week camp. Similarly, tourism facilitators often design and purchase large amounts of costumes and other textile products to resell or use in performance groups abroad. Drum-and dance tourism money extends to shop owners, marketplace saleswomen, instrument builders, tailors, fortune-tellers, chauffeurs, and others.

Drum-and-dance camps exist in a positive feedback loop, with romantic relationships between male Guinean artists and female non-Guinean drum-and-dance tourists from the United States pointing to another impact of Ebola felt through the absence of tourism in Guinea.3 Since the mid-1990s, Guinean men and American women have engaged in romantic relationships after meeting in drum-and-dance tourism camps in Guinea. These relationships have resulted in the international migration of an increasing number of Guinean men by way of K-1 “fiancé” visas. The Guinean expatriates who migrate to the United States through this mechanism often become the centers of new and developing drum-and-dance scenes.

After establishing themselves within local scenes and communities abroad, Guinean expatriates begin to facilitate their own drum-and-dance tourism camps in Guinea. Such artists who achieve international mobility earn a kind of cosmopolitan status among Guineans and become “jembe heroes” (Gaudette 2013). Tourism staff members are aware that working in a camp setting increases the likelihood that they will establish a relationship with a foreign woman, and that this might lead to international migration. The importance of the possibility of life and employment in the United States is so strong that some well-established facilitators who draw large numbers of tourists to Guinea each year can staff their camps without paying the musicians by highlighting the access to foreign women that they will have.

The absence of tourism because of Ebola resulted in a gap in this romance-migration mechanism. The lack of opportunities for romance and migration immediately affected the families and friends of the facilitating Guinean expatriates, as they are often those who are hired as camp staff. More broadly, the suspension of drum-and-dance tourism during the Ebola outbreak was responsible for decreasing the number of Guinean artists able to migrate to the United States and elsewhere, stalling the globalization of Guinean drum-and-dance practices.

The Guinea Arts Cooperative

Seattle, Washington, hosts an active drum-and-dance scene centered on teaching and learning performance practices from Guinea. This scene includes Guinean-born expatriates, most of whom have worked in drum-and-dance tourism camps in Guinea and now facilitate their own camps. News of the Ebola outbreak came first from international media outlets in March of 2014, and then from family and friends living in Guinea. As the media attention intensified through the summer, expatriate artists in the scene canceled their camps, some returning thousands of dollars in down payments.

In October of 2014, in response to the absence of drum-and-dance camps and other observed and assumed economic effects of Ebola, participants in the Seattle-Guinean scene formed the GAC, to be run by a fifteen member steering committee, made up of all seven of the Guinean teaching artists living in Seattle and eight Americans. Five of the Americans were wives of the Guinean artists. The remaining members were two longtime participants in the scene and me, an ethnomusicology doctoral candidate conducting research within the scene.4

The GAC produced a series of performance-centered fundraising events in a campaign called Beyond Ebola.5 Taken from GAC’s Facebook page, here is the group’s statement of purpose, crafted in a collaborative effort by members of the steering committee:

The Ebola outbreak in Guinea, West Africa[,] has resulted in profound financial stresses on many Guinean people due to restrictions on travel, resource scarcity, and escalating prices on basic necessities. Our purpose is to plan and initiate community-driven arts-based events with the goal of raising funds that will be utilized to distribute essential resources to the families and extended networks in Guinea supported by artists living in the Seattle area, and to provide additional assistance to the broader community in Guinea through a partnership with the UN World Food Programme.

Members of the GAC steering committee recognized and emphasized the harmfulness of the discourse on Ebola that emerged through the summer and early autumn of 2014. Journalists generally focused on the more graphic and gory details of the disease, contributing to the historical and contemporary othering of Africa and Africans (Mano 2015). This focus was “fed by stereotypes about Africa, which are also linked to the oft-depicted image of Africa as a site of primitivism and catastrophe, the sources of which lie in colonial discourses of backwardness, exoticism, and savagery” (Ali et al. 2016:161).

Members of the GAC steering committee took the Ebola outbreak seriously, but they recognized malaria, cholera, and tuberculosis as far greater health risks to Guineans. This characterization is consistent with subsequent research findings reported in the Lancet that, in 2014, EVD was not among the top causes of death in Guinea (Helleringer and Noymer 2015).6 GAC members worried that the attention given to Ebola in the media, particularly after the first cases emerged outside of Africa, would result in the redistribution of already minimal health-care resources in a way that would endanger the population. These concerns have been supported by subsequent research. District-wide studies in Guinea showed decreases of patient visits to primary care outpatient clinics of up to 40 percent in parts of Guinea, resulting in a sharp decline in new diagnoses and treatment of non-Ebola diseases (Leuenberger et al. 2015), and the Centers for Disease Control found that the Ebola outbreak had a substantial negative impact on health care related to malaria, HIV/AIDS, and tuberculosis (Parpia et al. 2016).

The GAC, in its promotional materials, advertisements, and events, joined a small tide of push back against the dominant narrative about Ebola in the US public sphere. GAC members emphasized the gap in attention given to the indirect costs accrued by Guineans, identifying the global response to the outbreak as doing more harm than good. In this respect, the GAC was not unique; however, ironically, national and international media outlets that published critiques of the rhetoric amplifying social agitation and fear around the Ebola outbreak were the same outlets generating that rhetoric (Haelle 2014).

In March of 2015, the GAC produced six major fundraising events in the Beyond Ebola campaign. There were two ticketed concerts, two daylong music and dance workshops, an evening dununba party, and a digital silent auction. The GAC produced a set of short documentary films made by artist Peter Moran, which featured interviews with Guinean-born GAC steering committee members. Show producers integrated the films into the live performance events to create multimedia experiences aimed at both educating and soliciting additional donations from paying audiences. The GAC partnered with Guinea Exchange, a small tax-exempt nonprofit organization, to ensure financial accountability in collecting and disseminating funds from the campaign. The Guinean artists in Seattle expected the nonprofit to release the funds to them so that they could personally distribute them to their contacts in Guinea. As the campaign came to a close, Guinea Exchange informed the GAC that it was unwilling to release the funds because of miscommunication about the collection of receipts during a previous fundraising event involving some of the artists associated with the GAC. Guinea Exchange insisted on sending the money directly to Guinea.

This was problematic for GAC steering committee members for a number of reasons. First, GAC steering committee members worried that the multiple transfers and procedures necessary to get the money into the hands of the appropriate people in Guinea would be too challenging and time-consuming for Guinea Exchange. Second, they believed that Guinea Exchange’s methods of money transfer would likely incur larger fees than necessary. The final and most important reason relates to the status associated with gift giving and the financial responsibilities placed on expatriate artists. The social capital (Bourdieu 1986) wrapped up in gift giving is important for Guinean artists living in the United States. Guinean-born artists living abroad are seen to be “bosses” because of the money that they contribute to their social networks and the comportment of many expatriates on return to Guinea. It is not unusual to see artists who live and work in the United States dressed in conspicuously expensive clothing and lavishing cash on artists at ceremonies and concerts. Seattle-based Guinean artists acknowledge that this behavior can give some Guineans unrealistic expectations regarding the living conditions for performers who emigrate. They push back against this by dressing in an understated way and distributing resources less publicly. Still, they are expected by friends and family to provide for a wide variety of needs, and the Guinean-born members of the GAC regularly send remittances from the United States to appease those needs.

Members of the GAC steering committee believed that if Guinea Exchange were to give all of the money to the families of Seattle-Guineans, then the Guineans in Seattle would not be understood as the source of that money. That being the case, they believed that their families and friends in Guinea would understand the money raised through the Beyond Ebola campaign to be additional to, and not in lieu of, that which would typically be sent from the artists in Seattle. In the end, a compromise was reached between the GAC and Guinea Exchange; the nonprofit sent some of the money directly, but rationed out most of it to the Guinean expatriates in Seattle.

After expenses, the GAC’s Beyond Ebola events generated approximately $18,000. Five percent of this money was given to the UN World Food Programme, and the remainder was utilized to purchase goods distributed through direct giving. The specific uses for the funds distributed by each of the Seattle-based artists was determined in collaboration with their social networks in Guinea. Contacts of the Seattle-based expatriate artists purchased rice, medicine, and cleaning supplies and gave money to aid in home construction and, in one case, to pay for school tuition.

The impact of the money raised by the GAC filtered broadly through social networks in Guinea. In Conakry, a Guinean young man who works in the Mansaré compound, which hosts the One World Dance and Drum camps, took home to his mother a bag of rice purchased with funds raised through the Beyond Ebola campaign. “My mother was very proud of me,” he told me. “At that time, rice was very expensive in Conakry, and it was difficult to keep money. She said, ‘My son, you have done something very good'” (interview, 2016, translation by author). In this case, the capital associated with gift giving was transformed from economic to sociocultural as it cascaded from those who contributed to the Beyond Ebola campaign, through the Mansaré family by way of its representatives on the GAC steering committee, and to their young employee and his mother in Guinea.

Secondary Impacts of the GAC: Fostering Community

Fissures in the Seattle-Guinean drum-and-dance scene existed along many fault lines, and several GAC steering committee members expressed a desire that GAC’s efforts would help ease existing tensions and facilitate a path upon which the scene could move toward unity. This was never raised as a business item during GAC steering committee meetings, nor was it integrated into the statement of purpose, but it was a hoped-for side effect of the process, a motivating factor in organizing the GAC in a decentralized way, and a strategy that resulted in less efficient and perhaps less financially successful processes than might otherwise have been possible.

The GAC steering committee encouraged all voices to be heard during decision-making processes, and this was done in the spirit of broad participation by all, with particular attention to the Guinean-born members. The steering committee members recognized that Guinean expatriates are often left out of the planning and organizing phases of events because of perceived cultural differences and language skills. Meetings were held almost entirely in English, and some members of the steering committee were unable to keep up with or contribute to the conversations. Some non-Guinean members of the steering committee lobbied for consistent interpretation, and others took it upon themselves to interpret into French for Guinean-born members. Interpersonal conflicts interrupted this process as a general practice, and eventually translations were no longer provided with regularity. Verbal participation in GAC meetings became increasingly dominated by non-Guinean members of the steering committee.

Participation by Guinean-born members most often manifested itself as agreement with whatever one of the Americans proposed. One American member suggested that this was among the more challenging aspects of the GAC for her: while her husband and the other Guinean-born members of the GAC readily agreed to adding events or promotional strategies, they would rarely work to prepare for or complete those tasks. She relates this to Guineans living in what she calls a “yes culture,” wherein people tend to agree, even if they are unwilling or unable to complete the task at hand, or even to understand what is being proposed. I am less confident than she is that Guineans generally live in a “yes culture,” but it was the case that the Guinean men in the GAC agreed without much comment on almost every proposal associated with the Beyond Ebola campaign.

Despite these shortcomings, the GAC steering committee members were successful in utilizing the Beyond Ebola campaign as a way to unify and strengthen the community. In a meeting after the end of the campaign’s events, many said they were proud that the Guinean artists in Seattle had shined as an example of a community of support, rather than of competition, as they see existing in other communities that include multiple Guinean artists. It is exceedingly rare to see all the Guineans who live in a single city collaborating on projects, and the GAC accomplished that feat in Seattle through its policy of inclusivity.

Just as important as the collaboration between Guinean-born artists for many of the GAC steering committee members was that the campaign required the wives of those artists to work together for an extended period of time. These women are responsible for the bulk of the promotion and management of their husbands’ performances and teaching, and are heavily and personally invested in their success. They are in effect in economic competition with one another for students’ dollars and for private performance and teaching contracts. In interviews, several of the wives celebrated that the GAC required them to cooperate in ways that had not previously occurred, and that they discovered how well they could work together and respected one another.

The GAC steering committee members’ attempt to utilize the campaign to build and strengthen Seattle’s drum-and-dance scene fell short at times, but it was successful in various ways in the long term. Collaboration between Guinean expatriates in Seattle continues to occur, with wives commonly attending classes taught or organized by one another. In this way, the GAC was successful in fostering community strength and unity.

Leveraging Ebola and Ethical Considerations

The GAC raised money to provide resources to the networks of expatriates living in Seattle, and did so in a way that attempted to push back against the dominant narratives revolving around the Ebola outbreak, and yet it can be understood as having capitalized on the necessity emerging out of the response to Ebola to strengthen the Seattle-Guinean drum-and-dance scene. Here, I present examples of the ways that Ebola was capitalized upon in three rough categories: exploitative of people within the most-affected countries; financially and politically exploitative, based on fear in Western countries; and nonexploitative or counterexploitative. This diversity of examples enables me to position the GAC and Beyond Ebola events within the final category of this field of activity of crisis leveraging.7

In all three countries most affected by Ebola, the economically and politically powerful have been accused of leveraging the crisis in exploitative ways. The Sierra Leonean government arrested and detained a prominent political commentator and investigative journalist using emergency powers that were intended to aid in the response to Ebola (Thomas 2014). In Liberia, Golden Veroleum Liberia, a multinational agricultural corporation, doubled its area of oil palm plantation operations during the Ebola outbreak in a move that has been criticized as having been blatantly and intentionally exploitative of rural farmers (MacDougall 2015). Health professionals accused Peabody Energy, the world’s largest privately held coal-based energy company, of exploiting the Ebola crisis to counteract the international divestment in fossil fuels (Goldenberg 2015).

In addition to those in positions of high national and global interest within the region, people in the United States have been accused of exploiting the Ebola outbreak for personal or professional gain. To sell products purported to have been found as cures in secret testing procedures, individuals rebranded and fanned conspiracy theories of a US government-derived origin for the Ebola outbreak (Woolf 2014). Entrepreneurs, evangelicals, and survivalists self-published more than forty Ebola-related e-books in 2014, and have been accused of contributing to a pattern of exploitative disaster induced literature (Dewey 2014). As the first cases of Ebola hit US soil, in the second half of 2014, health-care workers accused US politicians of amplifying fear and illegally quarantining individuals to position themselves as heroes for voters (Hickox 2014).

Some persons or groups have leveraged Ebola in a way that is less exploitative, or even countere xploitative. Political commentators used Ebola as a way to criticize the US embargo against Cuba by comparing the speed with which doctors were being deployed in the aid effort (Milne 2014). Within a few months of the outbreak, mainstream media outlets were publishing articles (e.g., Ginsburg 2014) highlighting science that potentially connected deforestation and ecological damage caused by mining as drivers of the outbreak.

Academics pushed further on the angle of the ecological catalyst, using the Ebola outbreak as a way to lend weight to ongoing critiques of neoliberalism (Wallace et al. 2016). Ebola was spun by medical commentators to bring attention to the essentially unrelated dangers of antivaccination campaigns and the emergence of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria (Grimes 2014). Finally, members of the US embassy in Conakry capitalized on Guinean governmental concern about Ebola to rally support around a previously floundering campaign against female genital cutting (Higa 2016).

Each example includes some degree of manipulation of fear and concern about the outbreak to achieve a political, personal, or professional goal, and the GAC and its Beyond Ebola campaign belong within this group. The drive to form a community through the campaign events positioned the GAC as being among the entities that capitalized on Ebola for nonrelated but also nonexploitative purposes. While not as exploitative as a large corporation taking advantage of reduced resources to achieve a previously unrealizable land grab, these actions and efforts remain ethically ambiguous.

The ethical ambiguity of the GAC’s Beyond Ebola campaign also emerges, in part, because GAC worked to perpetuate migration and a culture of dependency on expatriates through action at the intersection of transnational remittance and foreign aid. Remittances form a substantial portion of the GDP of many sub-Saharan African nations, potentially introducing negative effects.8 Remittances from Africans in diaspora lose double the global average in fees from intermediaries (Watkins and Quattri 2014) and can result in political disassociation (Obadare and Adebanwi 2009), inflation of exchange rates, an outflow-based “brain drain,” increased vulnerability to children and elderly, and hardship for those who are obligated to send them (Savage and Harvey 2007:2).

In reference to international aid and relief efforts, the “racist discourse of the diseased, incapable African, requiring outsiders to swoop in to save the day, can only be superseded through sincere and authentic participatory approaches” (Ali et al. 2016:153). The Beyond Ebola campaign exists in a complicated relationship with this argument. The participative nature of the campaign was in some ways restricted to individuals living in Seattle, even though people residing in Guinea were consulted as to their needs and how they might be served. The GAC was initiated by members of the Seattle-Guinean drum-and-dance scene who had not been born in Guinea, including myself. Finally, though its members regularly communicated with Guineans in Guinea, those abroad were not included in decision-making processes. Still, measures necessary for designing and implementing authentic participative approaches have been deemed to be too time consuming to be useful in response to widely dispersed rural flare-ups of EVD in Guinea (Faye 2015). The GAC’s steering committee recognized that major changes in the Guinean health-care system were necessary, and that the absence of health-care infrastructure was the result of decades of political and ethnic turmoil leading back to independence and before, to French colonial rule.9 The Beyond Ebola campaign was not intended as a solution to the largescale problems in Guinea’s health-care system: it was a stopgap solution to the immediate needs that emerged in response to Ebola among Guinean expatriate artists living in Seattle.

Slavoj Zizek (2008) argues that the most ethical position dictates intentional inaction in response to crisis, especially when, as in the case of the Ebola outbreak, asymmetric political and national power relations establish the preconditions necessary for an event to become a catastrophe. Musicologists Susan Fast and Kip Pegley respond in the introduction to Music, Politics, and Violence, their 2012 edited collection, where they suggest that the call for intentional inaction is predicated upon a position of privilege: “While it is probably true that sitting back and doing nothing may hasten the demise of capitalism, … this seems like a luxurious solution proposed by those who live in comfort” (2012:7).

The outbreak of and response to Ebola led to the complete evaporation of drum-and-dance camps in Guinea during the 2014-2015 season, creating economic losses that were responsible, in part, for the formation and activities of the GAC in Seattle. The $18,000 raised through the Beyond Ebola campaign is a meager amount when compared to the $350 million that were allocated for Ebola relief in Guinea by the international aid community. It does not make up for all the losses incurred, as Guinean expatriates in Seattle were unable to host drum-and-dance tourism camps in Guinea. Still, the campaign combined aid work and remittances to infuse resources into a social network that suffered from the absence of anticipated income during the 2014-2015 tourism season.

In the 2015-2016 drum-and-dance tourism season in Guinea, artists working at camps noted that more people were facilitating camps than in the years before Ebola. Musicians and dancers working at these camps reasoned that this was because some expatriates return to Guinea only every other year, and those who would have returned in 2014-2015 ended up traveling in 2015-2016 instead. The first drum-and-dance tourists began to arrive in August of 2015, earlier than normal, yet far fewer of them came than usual, even with more camps and facilitators. Fear of Ebola was still discouraging potential tourists, even as international media coverage was diminishing to a trickle. It remains to be seen whether the tourism industry in Guinea will fully rebound and begin to grow and expand once more.