Sharing Spaces with ‘The Slum Queen’


“Is art just for art’s sake?” This question provoked artist Rouble  Nagi’s very personal journey into Asia’s largest slums. Developing this initiative with a clear focus of uplifting the lives of the local slum dwellers, led to documentation of her own journey in her inspiring autobiography ‘The Slum Queen’ ….

By Soniya Kirpalani; Images Santosh Rai

There is a notable dichotomy in the title “The Slum Queen”, but this does not detract from the ethos of Rouble Nagi, nor the impact her work has on India’s largest slums and remote villages. An award-winning, internationally acclaimed artist-turned-social- activist, Nagi’s book is a refreshing departure from the norm of self-praise autobiographies. Taking the readers on a journey into one of Asia’s largest slums, Nagi’s vivid memories string up stories, to build a magical connection between the readers and her protagonists.

Rouble Nagi – ‘The Slum Queen’

Divided into 11 chapters, ‘The Slum Queen’ follows the life of Rouble Nagi, from her growing years, then across India as she backpacked with her military family. Recounting her childhood experiences, where she was imbibing diverse cultures, she reflects on how intuitively these experiences have guided her mindset as an artist, a human being and a communicator. With over 800 murals and 150 exhibitions worldwide to her credit, Nagi became the first woman artist to be invited to exhibit at the Rashtrapati Bhavan Museum Gallery. Going from being an artist into an author and social worker, every page from ‘The Slum Queen’ reveals her trajectory with subtilty.

 “The slums’ beautification via art is merely a stepping stone for addressing issues concerning the people living in the slums and villages. Filled with includes wonderful anecdotes of the hopes and dreams of people who live in these communities, their struggles, and the challenges we first encountered when trying to establish our first ‘Misaal’ campaign,” explains Nagi. With every chapter the writer weaves a chord of empathy, in a poignant and prolific manner, even as she chisels out the harsh realities, provoking raw emotion, but the visual descriptions of humans rising, sparks inspiration.

Sharing her trajectory, through her memories, she develops a colourful canvas of delightful experiences reflecting on the various ‘Misaal India’ workshops and skill centres that have been started in the slums and villages across India and how their inhabitants see their dreams being fulfilled. Peppering her stories, with philosophical questions, her pen provokes the readers to introspect and question the purpose of their lives. Without fabrication, sans drama, she highlights what led to the development ofRouble Nagi Art Foundation (RNAF) and how continues is transforming slums and villages with creativity across Mumbai, Delhi, Kashmir, Jammu, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, and Telangana.

A book that provokes introspection and makes an exciting addition to any bookshelf, was currently launched during Nagi’s whirlwind tour to Dubai. Between book signings, she delivered a heartwarming speech at the India Consulate. Hosted at the Consulate Auditorium, Consulate General of India, Dubai, this was a very well-attended session, by leading businessmen, socialites and intellectuals from both Arabs and Indians.

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