Sievituo Solo (“Chevy”) has a vision for his town of Kohima, the capital of Nagaland, a state in the north-east of India. Kohima is perched high within the wondrous Naga hills and feels a world away from the country to which it belongs.
Access to the town is by road only, roads which, as we experienced first-hand having cycled them, are in a terrible state of disrepair. Chevy returns to this issue often. He feels let down by the Government, continually employing the same companies to manage projects, often using shabby material for greater profits and for a higher likelihood of receiving more work to fix the issues as they arise.
Yet Chevy does not believe that complaining is conducive to getting anything done. And he practices what he preaches.
He believes that the best way to help the community is by giving back to the community, which is the entire premise of his initiative, turned social enterprise, Project 72 Hrs. It was based around school and college students dedicating 72 hours of their year to community service, one way was through joining him and his team in picking up litter in Kohima at 8am every morning. They also educate and empower young people about recycling and climate change, and help develop systems for waste management and behaviour change.
He aims to instil in his own community a sense of civic duty and Project 72 Hrs is using urban street art as their vehicle for communication. The drab walls in Kohima have been likened to the ‘lacklustre’ lives of the town’s inhabitants. But Chevy wants to make Kohima a town known for its culture, he wants people to visit for its vibrancy and ‘the art on its walls’.
A mural in the centre of the town depicts famous faces, such as JK Rowling, Albert Einstein and the 11th President of India, APJ Abdul Kalam. Their tales of success against the odds are written on the walls, to inspire children on their way to school to recognise that anything is possible, as long as they fight hard enough for it.
Chevy, who has cycled around Asia, Europe and the US on his bamboo bike and has worked abroad, knows that he could leave Kohima and go elsewhere, earn more money and live a comfortable life. But his overwhelming sense of duty to the youth of his town and to their future is what drives his mission.
Seeing some of himself in them, he employs young ‘drop outs’, young people with a huge sense of creativity, responsibility and passion. Within this group are the street artists who are repainting the walls of their town to revive a spirit in the people of Kohima, who Chevy wants to feel proud of their town and heritage too.
Collaborating with, rather than working against, the local authorities, Project 72 Hrs is now being commissioned by them to develop ideas for street art to change both the urban landscape and the mental landscape of its inhabitants.