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From marketing to authorship: Chat Bout!

Published:Monday | July 23, 2018 | 12:00 AMRocheda Bartley

From marketing to authorship: Chat Bout!

"This was freedom for me. I felt great after making this decision. But at first, it caused a culture shock for me. I was coming from a rigid discipline environment in high school, and being on my own was troubling."

Growing up, Shelly Sykes-Coley had a profound liking for the arts. At times, she tried to divorce herself from her flair; for instance, studying business while in high school.

Still, this fondness kept expanding and eventually developed into an indissoluble passion. Finally, at the end of her secondary studies and with her eagerly wanting to explore visual communication, she enrolled into the then Jamaica School of Art, which we now call the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts.

Even with acknowledging that she has a knack for the arts at an early stage of her life, she never took her zeal seriously; until now, more than three decades after. After spending 30 years in the marketing world, she's completely devoted herself to an aptitude for creative craft, penning her first book, Chat Bout! An Anthropology of Jamaican Conversations.




Initially, she used various kinds of artistry as outlets to discover her innovative wits. Her competence has evolved impressively and is a tool which she cleverly utilises to express herself and capture the imagination of several others.

Coley started her stint in the expressive realm as a paste-up artist. Today, we would call her a graphic artiste.

"At that time, we weren't as computerised as we are now. So, I would literally have to print the texts, cut them out, and paste them together to make attractive projects," an exciting Coley said, before bursting in a fit of laughter.

As time elapsed, she continued to invest heavily in her development and in a few years she found herself studying at the Pratt Institute in New York. To her dismay, she struggled financially. And after a year of assiduous studying and fighting to make ends meet, she had to return home, losing her battle. This, however, was not the end for her and in no way could have stopped her from clutching on to her desire. Instead, it was more the fuel that kept her driving.




In 1996, she landed a job with Scotiabank as a graphic manager and an advertising agent. Her inventive intelligence caused her to continuously climb the promotional ladder at the banking entity. Advertising manager, sponsorship manager and head of the graphic services, are some of the hats Coley wore during her term at the institution.

"I was also in charge of creating Scotia's calendar and it led me to do a lot of research on our culture. This made me realise that I did not know a lot about my country. I love Jamaica, yes, but I never knew anything about where we are coming from as a people, our culture and so forth. And this is what led me to start writing," she revealed to Outlook with a chirpy smile.




In 2016, she participated at the largest literary festival in the Caribbean, Calabash. She performed two of her favourite poems in the open-mic segment and victoriously emerged as the winner. Motivated by her family, receptive support from her friends, and encouraging feedback she received about her poems, Coley couldn't contain herself. She had to start writing.

"When I started writing, I focused only on expressing my feelings. But then I thought to myself that if I could tell persons about our culture in a way that could cause them to remember it, genuinely want to read about it, make it entertaining and would make them want to learn more about the culture, that would make me very happy, and I had to write it," she told Outlook.

Her book is a poetry collection that mundanely celebrates all things that are uniquely Jamaican. It's the perfect reflection of our innate inclination to 'tek bad tings mek laugh'. She describes her product as a dream come true.

Written in Patois, a trip down memory lane, a taste of her wry sense of humour, and a cunning use of the colourful Jamaican dialect are the features which, she asserts, will help you to not only appreciate her work of art, but the Jamaican culture.

"So, get your bellyful, of laugh and pick up some patwa as brawta," she said inviting all to test her work.

The book is available on Amazon.