Meet the new architects of freedom

Just last month, South Africans celebrated the country’s first democratic elections in the comfort of their homes due to Covid-19’s lockdown rules. The first democratic elections allowed citizens to live in their preferred areas but the scars of the Group Areas Act are slow to recover because reports show that communities are still segregated by class and colour. “In South Africa’s past, architecture was used as a tool to divide people,” said Khensani De Klerk, Junior Architect.

Together with Solange Mbanefo, De Klerk founded Matri-Archi(tecture), an intersectional collective that brings African women together for the empowerment and development of African cities and spatial education. The cooperative is made up of a team of 12 talented individuals from different fields. Together, they promote inclusive city development and provide spatial education. “With more women and people of colour joining the industry, there’s a better chance for us to create diverse public spaces,” said De Klerk.

Since 2018, they’ve hosted workshops in Switzerland, collaborated with Nairobi Design Week, and built a digital network that spans the globe. “Our democracy is still in its youth and we have a long way to go on the road to healing. Reviewing our country’s design is a pivotal point of development. There’s a huge need for us to learn how to work together so that spatial segregation becomes a myth, “comments De Klerk. She hopes for South Africa include creating a city where the pavement is the safest space for all of us to occupy.

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