Rouble Nagi – Enabling change through Art

Rouble Nagi is the Founder of Rouble Nagi Art Foundation. She is an Award winning, internationally acclaimed artist who believes that colorful and vibrant surroundings can change lives of the people. 

You are creating a visual impact through art and enabling change, which is impacting the lives of local communities in a very positive manner. What is that one mission you strive to achieve through art?

As per me any form of art has the power to bring about social change through impact. ‘Misaal Mumbai’ initiative had visual impact to get the viewer thinking about these slums. Good art can educate and create empathy, and empathy leads to change. Global leaders in business and politics are increasingly aware of this and are investing in art as a way of engaging with communities, improving lives and boosting economic growth. So where the arts thrive, freedom of expression thrives. Art can directly empower the most vulnerable members of society. Our mission: to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one village and one slum at a time. A better and healthy life for children and women living in the slums of India. 

You are an award winning and internationally acclaimed artist who believes in giving back to the society. Please tell us how Rouble Nag Art Foundation (RNAF) idea initiated and what was that one thought which became your true calling?

As an artist, I believe that creative thinkers and makers provide their communities with joy, interaction, and inspiration, but they also give thoughtful critique to our political, economic and social systems — pushing communities to engage thoughtfully and make steps toward social progress. Art is about connecting with people’s emotions. It’s personal and at the same time, universal. Personally my own work is rooted in feminism – where expressing my emotions, goals, and ideas, in the realm of the personal, social and political, is an exercise in communicating my individual experience. Working with people and communities, beautiful exchanges of ideas often happen –which creates artistic growth, empathy, and new understandings.

‘Misaal Mumbai’ is your flagship programme, which has gathered lot of appreciation from everywhere and now it’s going to Pune. Why don’t you share the highlights of this programme and what it really means to you?

The Misaal initiative focuses on integrated development of slums, achieved through various projects for water, sanitation, hygiene, shelter, basic services and other related civic amenities to provide utilities to the urban poor. Education is our focus, having spent years running Balwadi’s and interacting with slum children I can say that these children may have verbal virtuosity in the language of his/her own world, he/she may have imagination and creativity, yet have slight opportunity to use these attributes in the schools. With Misaal we run art classes in slums to bring out the best in children.

You have collaborated with NGOs and have conducted many art workshops in Balwadi’s of Mumbai. What made you start this kind of intervention and what impact it has created in the lives of young children?

Well we have not collaborated with many NGO’s , except for Pratham. Also, mostly we have collaborated with local municipal corporations to help them address the challenges they face in schools and slums. As we live in a global village, we are somehow all connected via some form of social media. We artists are no longer hermits and we are all “out there [in the world]”. My role as an artist is to inspire, connect, and collaborate with the youth and people.

You do lot of work in slums and I am sure the journey would not have been a smooth ride. What all challenges you faced and how did you overcome them?

An artist’s role is almost that of an Alchemist — capable of transforming a few humble materials into objects which are imbued with spiritual and aesthetic value and then possibly also material value. For a viewer it is always a mystery till the artwork is complete. Only an artist knows his process of work, sometimes when the audience is involved they get curious and even agitated at times. Because I transform my own anguish concerning the present and also the future into something tangible which is simple, hopeful and beautiful, my role is to offer through my art and without being superficial, a message of hope to society, my community and the world at large. Once when the artwork is revealed everything becomes self-explanatory, in this case my canvas was the slum and the people my subject.

You are truly a change maker who is on a mission to put some impact on the Social Change Ecosystem. This year, Women’s Day theme is #BalanceForBetter so how do you see RANF contributing towards a more gender-balanced World?

The fight for equality unites all of us. Providing women and girls with equal access to education, healthcare, labor market and representation in political and economic decision-making is not about stealing men’s opportunities or making them inferior. We address these issues through workshops conducted by us in the slums and villages, however, the path of equality between the two genders is still very bumpy. We are making progress but still have a long way to go.

What is the true meaning of Women’s Day for you?

Women have been denied their rights for long. Even till date the original motive of the day of achieving gender equality has not been accomplished in its true sense. There is still a need to celebrate Women’s Day because gender discrimination still persists and despite completing many years demanding the same, women are not considered at par with men in the society.  International Women’s Day is a global event that memorializes and glorifies womanhood and their achievements – from the political to the social.

You are an inspiration to many and your work is undoubtedly creating a huge difference. Today, on Women’s Day would you like to share any message for millions of women who aspire to be like you in one way or the other?

It is time for a change, and women are leading this change. In a world that is still largely patriarchal in its outlook, we women are spreading the message of equality purely on the basis of their achievements. Remember your actions will always speak louder than words, people are inspired by those who lead by example and actively engage in their own development. Always be original, because you are unique!

As told to

Richa Sharma

Editor offdhook.com

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