10/08 - 10/10/21
All Day

Event Description

The Black in Design conference, organized by the Harvard Graduate School of Design African American Student Union, recognizes the contributions of the African diaspora to the design fields and promotes discourse around the agency of the design professions to address and dismantle the institutional barriers faced by our communities. The fourth biannual conference, Black Matter, took place virtually on October 8-10, 2021.

Black Matter celebrated the cultivation of Black design and creativity from the magical to the mundane. The conference aimed to lift up Black spatial practices and experiences that operate below the surface of design discourse, bringing nuance to the trope of Black excellence and acknowledging the urgent political, spatial, and ecological crises facing Black communities across the diaspora.

The 2021 conference hosted discussions, exhibitions, and performances at the intersections of technology, history, and design, with focus on encouraging new design practices. Black Matter offered a dynamic virtual environment where geographically distant participants connected synchronously to share their ideas and creative work, forming a global constellation of Black consciousness. Learn more about the conference  at

Keynote Speakers

Mpho Matsipa  |  Friday, October 8, 12pm EST

Mpho Matsipa is a researcher at Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WiSER) in Johannesburg, South Africa, and co-investigator on an Andrew Mellon research grant on Mobilities, Temporalities and African Political Futures, housed in the African Center for Society and Migration Studies. She has written critical essays on art and architecture and curated several exhibitions and discursive platforms, including co-curating the South Africa Pavilion at the 11th International Architecture Exhibition, Venice Biennale (2008); African Mobilities at the Architecture Museum, Pinakothek der Modern in Munich (2018); African Mobilities 2.0 podcast series (2020); and Studio-X Johannesburg, South Africa (2014-2016). With her time divided between WiSER and the Wits School of Architecture and Planning, her curatorial practice aims to support independent research practices across and beyond the African continent, and to democratize access, by promoting the discursive mobility among Black and African artists, scholars and designers. Dr. Matsipa received her PhD in architecture from UC Berkeley.

Lesley Lokko  |  Saturday, October 9, 1pm EST

Lesley Lokko is the founder and director of the African Futures Institute in Accra, Ghana, an independent postgraduate school of architecture and public events platform. She was the founder and director of the Graduate School of Architecture, University of Johannesburg (2014-2019) and the Dean of Architecture at the Bernard & Anne Spitzer School of Architecture at the City College of New York (2019-2020). She is the editor of White Papers, Black Marks: Race, Culture, Architecture (University of Minnesota Press, 2000) and editor-in-chief of FOLIO: Journal of Contemporary African Architecture. In 2004, she made the successful transition from academic to novelist with the publication of her first novel, Sundowners, and has since followed with twelve further bestsellers, which have been translated into fifteen languages. She is a founding member of the UN-Habitat Council on Urban Initiatives, a member of the 17th International Jury of the Venice Architecture Biennale, and a trustee of the London-based Architecture Foundation. Dr. Lokko trained as an architect at the Bartlett School of Architecture and holds a PhD in Architecture from University of London.