Sustaining Apertures: Artist Panel Conversation

June 15, 2024

On Saturday, June 15, 2024, join artists Lys Divine Ndemeye and Colin Berg Mbugua, in conversation with Sierra Tasi Baker, Krystal Paraboo, and Sara Stevens, at Ballet BC on Granville Island. Introduction by Or Gallery Director Jenn Jackson.


Together the panel will discuss social and environmental justice as it relates to place-based installation and design in contemporary art, architecture, and community planning. This conversation is presented in conjunction with the exhibition Sustaining Apertures, on view at Or Gallery from March 7 to July 6, 2024.


This program is free and open to all, and is co-sponsored by Or Gallery and Urbanarium. Registration is recommended but not required.

Participant Bios

Lys Divine Ndemeye is an award-winning landscape designer, artist, and educator (Adjunct professor at UBC School of Architecture + Landscape Architecture) with ancestral roots from Burundi.

Divine is the Founder and Principal of Remesha Design Lab, a research-design firm that provides services in landscape design, public art, and community engagement. Remesha Design operates within the framework of decoloniality, Indigeneity and Afrofuturism; a school of thought that combines ancient wisdom from Africa with technology and creativity to envision social change and alternative futures.

Divine works to center Black and Indigenous World Views into landscape systems. She focuses on community empowerment, sustainability, and community-led design approaches. Prior to pursuing a career in design, Divine worked in different municipalities in strategic and urban planning, and has over 10 years of experience in community building and engagement.

Divine is the founder and Co-Director of the Black+Indigenous Design Collective; a social enterprise working to build the capacity of Black and Indigenous Youth in the spatial design fields and public art, and working to increase the visibility and agency of Black and Indigenous communities in urban spaces. She is also the host and producer of the Design Unmuted podcast, a platform that elevates marginalized voices in design, art and all things creative.

Colin Berg Mbugua is a Kenyan-Canadian artist, researcher, and architectural designer. He holds both a Masters and a Bachelor in Architecture. Mbugua’s practice engages multi-disciplinary contexts that draw from traditional architectural practices while engaging experimentation through collaboration and cross-cultural exchange. His research explorations activate conversations around social and environmental justice through place-based installation and design in contemporary art, architecture, and community planning.  Mbugua is currently working on a community-based project that involves workshops that explore food sovereignty and security between urban and rural spaces.

Krystal Paraboo (she/her) is an award-winning independent Curator, Public Art Planner, Consultant and Writer based on the unceded territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. Trained in art historical & curatorial methodologies, Krystal’s practice explores the strengthening of visual narratives through intersectional social issues, identities, and stewarding cultural solidarity movements as a decolonial process working towards future building. Krystal has a decade experience working in public & private arts institutions, with current on-going research in public art that centres commissioning approaches that enhance public sites, land use, and communities through placemaking. She is currently a Public Art Planner with the City of Vancouver and the Public Art Director with the Black + Indigenous Design Collective (BIDC).

Sierra Tasi Baker is an Indigiqueer Urban Designer at Sky Spirit Studio. Sierra is from the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation) and is also Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw/Musga̱mgw Dzawada̱’enuxw, Łingít (Tlingit), and Magyar/Hungarian. Sierra’s ancestral Kwak̓wala name, K̓esugwilakw, means “Creator” or “Creative One” or “One Who Carves Wealth/the Supernatural into the World”. Sierra holds a Masters of Science in Sustainable Urbanism from Bartlett School of City Planning at University College London, and has a degree in Environmental Design from UBC SALA. They received awards in Design Leadership and Youth Leadership for their work in the community from the City of North Vancouver and SALA’s Environmental Design Program. Sierra focuses on decolonization through Etiological Design, combining Indigenous design and research methodologies, oral history, primary archival research, Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK), Story of Place, Trauma Informed Design Practices, Two-Eyed Seeing and Coast Salish design techniques to develop unique architectural and urban planning solutions rooted in Indigenous sovereignty and Coast Salish values.

Sara Stevens is an architectural and urban historian. She is an Associate Professor of architectural and urban design history and Chair of Urban Design in the School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. Her research focuses on real estate developers of the twentieth century, exploring the cultural economy of architectural practice, finance, and expertise in Canada and the United States. Her book, Developing Expertise: Architecture and Real Estate in Metropolitan America (Yale University Press, 2016), studies real estate development in twentieth century American cities, and how developers, investors, and architects worked together to build subdivisions and superblocks, cul-de-sacs and towers. Her current book project, Building Capital, was supported by a Research Fellowship at the Canadian Centre for Architecture in 2019, and examines changes in urbanism, architectural practice, and finance in the 1970s and 1980s. She is a member of the collective Architects Against Housing Alienation that curated the Canada Pavilion at the 2023 Architecture Biennale in Venice. She is also the current chair of the board of the Urbanarium.