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Jamaicapedia keeps J'can culture alive

Published:Sunday | January 23, 2011 | 12:00 AM

Howard Campbell, Gleaner Writer

It is almost unheard of for Jamaicans to talk about Usain Bolt and Queen Elizabeth II in the same breath, even though they have played major roles in the country's modern history.

They are two of the strange bedfellows who share common ground at, a fledgling website operated by Michael Robinson and Michael Kelly, principals behind the company M Squared.

The 38-year-old Robinson is a self-described creative consultant. He said the site was inspired by Internet database giant Wikipedia, and is dedicated mainly to reviving interest in Jamaican culture and history.

"You could call it a time capsule, it's a collection of things that make up Jamaican culture," he explained.

"I think there's a need for it because it captures all our culture in one place and there's nothing like that right now."

Currently, there are more than 1,000 videos on Jamaicapedia. They capture some key events, such as the 1953 visit to the country by newly crowned British monarch Queen Elizabeth II, and Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I's official state visit in April 1966.

Original productions

More recent videos include interviews with Bolt, the track and field superstar who holds the world record for 100 and 200 metres and reggae singer/songwriter Ziggy Marley, as well as features on environmental issues.

Several of the pieces are original M Squared productions. Others are posted by viewers, but only after approval from Robinson and Kelly.

Though there is coverage of last May's bloody clash between the security forces and gunmen in west Kingston, Robinson said a lot of effort is made to stay away from the negatives that have tarnished Jamaica's image.

"We actually try to keep things positive so we don't have too much things about the violence. If it's of historic significance like the west Kingston incident we'll use it," he said.

Last summer, Robinson and Kelly had a 'soft launch' of Jamaicapedia but publicity for their website has come mainly through the grapevine. Content is updated almost daily by the two main partners and monitored by about three colleagues.

Robinson is a graduate of the Jamaica School Art where he studied sculpture. Prior to M Squared, he worked in marketing at CGR Communications and the company formerly known as Quantum.