Garden of Broken Shadows

Lamis Haggag, Katherine Melançon, Ahmed Naji, Anahita Norouzi, and El Rass
Curated by Fatma Hendawy Yehia

June 24 – August 5, 2023
Critical Distance Centre for Curators (CDCC), Toronto

Anahita Norouzi, Arid Florilegium (detail), 2022, Inkjet prints on archival paper, paper cutouts, plexiglass, 16 x 20 in. Courtesy of the artist.

Critical Distance is pleased to present Garden of Broken Shadows, curated by Fatma Hendawy Yehia. In a transglobal world, race and class are the basis of any immigration system. The fascination with building a new life elsewhere — thinking about immigration as an investment in the future — has become a condition of our times. While immigration can be perceived as a global commodity, used to improve people’s social status and well-being, the stories and histories held by migrant bodies are often tokenized through a western gaze. This exhibition is inspired by the personal experiences and stories that emerge from the condition of migration.

The artists in Garden of Broken Shadows define their relationship with their native land and the process of migration that some of them went through, seeking refuge or a better living as immigrants. Through the use of organic material, text, sound, and technology, these artists manifest the ways in which one could survive and adapt within new environments. The exhibition interweaves these practices, producing a temporal space in which visitors can experience the possibilities of being both here and there — in both Canada and the MENA region (Middle East and North Africa) — simultaneously.

Garden of Broken Shadows is grounded through conversation with author Ahmed Naji, who explains that the migration of Egyptians — from the Gulf area to North America, for example — is a collective act of seeking a better social status or class: a hope that usually dissolves as immigrants face the so-called integration process. Through his seamless Arab rap style, critical lyrics, and provocative music performances, El Rass connects the vernacular with the philosophical to reflect the suffering of many displaced bodies from the MENA region. Mixing reality with fiction, Lamis Haggag captures the essence of the sorrow lived by immigrants through a story of a jasmine plant that transformed into a monotropa. Anahita Norouzi mutates irises in their form and nature: as they stand in a fragile yet solid state of suspension, we are confronted with the colonial values constantly projected on migrant bodies. Katherine Melançon juxtaposes the precision of digital scanning with the fluidity of plants, which resembles the resilience of migrant bodies, creating an alternative environment where our connections to nature, technology, and time are inextricable from one another.

This exhibition was developed through the Ways of Attuning curatorial study group facilitated by WaveForm Collective (Liz Ikiriko and Toleen Touq).

Katherine Melançon, Nature morte Un million d’horizons (detail), 2017, laser-engraved ceramic, 11 x 17 in. Photo: Jean-Michel Seminaro.


Artist Talk followed by the opening reception
Friday, June 23, 6:30 pm – 9:30pm
Join us for an artist talk with Lebanese rapper El Rass. This event is free with registration; space is limited and seating is first-come, first-served. Immediately following the talk we will proceed to the gallery for the opening reception.

El Rass in concert at Adelaide Hall, Toronto
Saturday, June 24, 7 pm
Critical Distance is thrilled to co-present El Rass in concert with MARSM Canada at Adelaide Hall. Tickets on sale now through MARSM’s website.

The Time of Balsams with Lamis Haggag and Marina Fathalla
Thursday, June 29, 6 pm
Visitors will meet at the gallery (Suite 122) before heading to the Courtyard at 401 Richmond. This in-person event is free with registration.

Artist talks with Katherine Melançon and Anahita Norouzi
Thursday, July 13, 12:30 pm ET
This event will be held on Zoom, please register on Eventbrite to receive a link.

Ahmed Naji and Fatma Hendawy in Conversation
Saturday, July 15, 3 pm ET
This event will be held on Zoom, please register on Eventbrite to receive a link.

Afternoon with the Curator
Saturday, July 29, 1 – 5 pm
Drop by the gallery for casual conversation with exhibition curator Fatma Hendawy. Registration is not required and admission is always free.

For more info on the exhibition and artists, visit our website.

Thank you to our partners and funders

Critical Distance thanks co-presenter MARSM Canada for partnering on programming for El Rass. Garden of Broken Shadows is made possible through the generous support of the Canada Council for the Arts. Critical Distance gratefully acknowledges funding support from the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario.

Location and accessibility information

Critical Distance prioritizes creative and collaborative approaches to access in conversation with guest curators, artists, access professionals, and people in community.

Please note our new location: We are located on the ground floor at 401 Richmond, a wheelchair accessible building with a ramp at the Richmond Street doors and an accessible washroom on every level. The gallery is equipped with automatic doors and we commission audio description for all exhibitions. Updates on any measures we develop in relation to artworks or events will be posted as it becomes available. For any questions or more information, please contact us at

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Critical Distance Centre for Curators (CDCC)
401 Richmond Street West, Suite 122 / Toronto, Ontario / M5V 3A8 / Canada / / Instagram / Facebook / Twitter