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Muyiwa Oki: celebrating our Black sisters

In this blog to mark Black History Month, RIBA President Muyiwa Oki reflects on the contributions of Black women to the field of architecture and beyond.

30 October 2023

As the vibrant and significant occasion of Black History Month in the UK draws to an end, I couldn't be more thrilled to share with you the incredible events that have unfolded over the past month.

This year, our theme is saluting our sisters, highlighting the powerful contributions of Black women in various fields – including architecture. The following is a reflective journey through this month’s celebration. 

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: a beacon of inspiration 

For me, celebrating a sister begins with acknowledging the inspiration and pride I feel for my fellow countrywoman - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Over the past decade, I have been introduced to her works - books, talks, stories and more - as she shines a fresh light on the transformative change needed for gender equality.

Adichie is a literary icon, a feminist champion, and a true role model for me and many others, from all backgrounds. Her work has illuminated the paths we must tread toward a more equal and just world. 

Adichie's message that "we should all be feminists" resonates deeply. As president of an organisation dedicated to professional growth and inclusivity, I take her words to heart and celebrate her as one of my inspirations. And, as you might have guessed, she also happens to be Black.

Let her light guide us as we continue to foster an environment where every voice is heard, and every individual's potential is unleashed. 

Local, national, and global impact of Black History Month 

Black History Month is not just a local affair; it's a nationwide and global celebration of heritage, culture, and achievements. It serves to remind us of the vibrancy of Black culture and heritage so that we all positively engage with it all year round. This month is an opportunity to focus and recognise the vast contributions of the Black community in every facet of society.  

Locally, we've seen communities coming together in unity, organising events, and celebrating the rich tapestry of Black history. I am sure your offices had events focused on the topic across the month – here at RIBA we had a series of events and learning to share. 

It is inspiring to witness the impact of Black History Month at the grassroots level, with schools, businesses, and cultural institutions all taking part in the festivities. This is a testament to the power of collective recognition and appreciation. 

Nationally, Black History Month serves as a reminder of the progress we've made and the work that still lies ahead. It's an opportunity to honour the exceptional contributions of Black individuals throughout history and their pivotal role in shaping our society. It is a reminder of the importance of diversity and inclusion in our institutions, in our policies, and in our hearts.

I want to hear more about the lessons you’ve all learned and take away from the various activities you have been a part of in your various offices, regions and schools. Please send them to

RIBA celebrating Black History Month 2023: saluting our sisters 

At our headquarters, we embraced the spirit of Black History Month with open arms and took immense pride in saluting our sisters in the world of architecture. Their contributions to this dynamic profession are nothing short of remarkable. Our North West chapter hosted a panel discussion that not only recognised these accomplishments but also provided a platform for the exchange of ideas and experiences. 

As we close the chapter on this year's Black History Month, it’s worth noting that the RIBA Library is home to an expanded reading list of books about Black architects – especially women. Literary works and journals on Race and architecture as well as colonialism and British architecture are also available.

I hope you have been able to browse these thought-provoking collections that spotlighted the architectural masterpieces created by Black women throughout history to remind us that diversity and creativity go hand in hand, and that every voice contributes to the symphony of progress. 

Let's not forget the lessons we've learned and the inspiration we've gained. The celebration of Black history doesn't end here; it's a continuous journey towards greater inclusivity and understanding. Together, we can build a world where every sister, regardless of their background, can thrive and make their mark. 

Thank you for being a part of our vibrant community, and here's to a future where the stories of all our Black sisters are celebrated, not just in October, but every day of the year. 

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