Rouble Nagi is an Indian artist specialising in sculptures, art installations and paintings. She is the founder of the Rouble Nagi Art Foundation and Rouble Nagi Design Studio. She has over 800 murals to her credit and has held over 150 exhibitions worldwide. We spoke to Rouble Nagi about her journey in the Indian art space. Excerpts:
The Optimist: Brand Rouble Nagi has carved out a niche for itself in the Indian art space. How did you venture into art after studying political science?
Rouble Nagi: Art is my passion and I always wanted to be an artist. Political science happened since I have always been interested in the subject. I run an NGO, called the Rouble Nagi Art Foundation, and the concept of combining art and politics for social reforms has always excited me.
The Optimist: It is often said that the versatility of Rouble Nagi, working with 33 different mediums stands out from that of her peers. What has been your mantra for success?
Rouble Nagi: My workshop is like a laboratory and I feel art is all about experiment and discovery. As an artist, you learn to ‘observe’ in detail and not just ‘see’. The 33 mediums you are talking about are products of experimenting with different materials over the years. There is no mantra for success. One should work hard and just be confident and ‘creatively courageous’.
The Optimist: What was your motto when you began the much-acclaimed Rouble Nagi Art Foundation in India?
Rouble Nagi: The motto was always equality, not charity. This NGO was formed to help children realize and achieve their goals in life and help them grow as individuals. Just as Mahatma Gandhi had said, “A man is but the product of his thoughts… what he thinks, he becomes.” Even at our art camps, we have privileged children from private schools interacting with underprivileged children to build a sense of mutual respect when they work as a team for an art project. I think it’s important to learn the value of what we have and not take anything for granted.
The Optimist: Your innovative approach in coming up with art installations in and around Mumbai has received rave reviews. How did you come up with such an idea? Was there any specific incident that sparked such innovation?
Rouble Nagi: I started public artworks in Mumbai about 10 years ago. My earlier projects were mainly for corporates, hotels, palaces and individuals. Till now, we’ve made over 800 murals. As an artist, I realised that public art is an investment for the future. It started with proposing ideas to local municipal corporations and politicians with concepts of beautifying the surroundings. The local residents were happy with the change and, soon, the concept spread across the city and, now, the country.
The Optimist: Children dropping out of schools is a sad reality in India in both the urban and rural spheres. How do you connect children with art, since your efforts have already made a huge impact in minimizing dropouts?
Rouble Nagi: Underprivileged children are mostly disengaged from mainstream education, disruptive or withdrawn and mostly avoid going to school. Our camps are held at municipal schools, balwadis and pathshalas to encourage children not to skip school and tell them that learning can be fun. In the past six years, we’ve demonstrated that, in a caring and creative environment, even the most problematic child can learn and achieve through art. This has helped in significantly minimising dropouts.
The Optimist: Misaal Mumbai, another initiative of yours, has been a game-changer for slums. Do you think Misaal Mumbai can be followed in other metro cities and other Tier-I and Tier-II cities, as well?
Rouble Nagi: We’re already working in Pune, Thane, Rishikesh and Haridwar.
The Optimist: Over the years, various artists have called to look into the commercial aspect of arts. Do you think that, in the digital era, artists have a bigger challenge regarding commercial sustainability and copyright?
Rouble Nagi: As an artist, it’s essential for you to understand your rights on your creations and what to do if you believe those rights have been violated. Whether or not art is your livelihood, you should take the necessary steps to ensure ownership of your work.