Text reading: I am interested in exploring this creation place – the Door of No Return, a place emptied of beginnings - as a site of belonging or on belonging.


A digital project commissioned as part of A Map to the Door of No Return at 20: A Gathering, organized by Drs. Christina Sharpe and Andrea Davis, York University, November 3-6, 2021

Mohamed Abdulkarim Ali, Christina Battle, Sandra Brewster, Kevin Adonis Browne, Chantal Gibson, Canisia Lubrin, Cecily Nicholson, Abdi Osman, Camille Turner
Curated by Ellyn Walker

Thresholds is an online curatorial project inspired by poet, novelist, nonfiction writer Dionne Brand’s 2001 book, A Map to the Door of No Return: Notes to Belonging. It brings together works by Mohamed Abdulkarim Ali, Christina Battle, Sandra Brewster, Kevin Adonis Browne, Chantal Gibson, Canisia Lubrin, Cecily Nicholson, Abdi Osman, and Camille Turner— visual artists, poets, and writers. Reflecting on the twentieth anniversary of Brand’s canonical text that uses the space of the doorway as schema, these contributors take up the doorway as the conceptual and aesthetic frame through which to consider questions of diaspora and belonging in settler-colonial contexts like Canada and elsewhere. ‘The Door of No Return’ figures as threshold—at its core it represents Black diasporic space. In turn, it implicates all people in histories of enslavement, dislocation, migration, and (re)settlement, which are tied to larger projects of white supremacy, settler colonialism, and capitalism. Thresholds offers critical listening encounters, points of relation, passages, portals, and pathways as possibilities in which new understandings of history and our interrelations emerge.

The exhibition will be activated through a live panel discussion between the curator, artists, poets, and writers, that will take place live as part of A Map to the Door of No Return at 20: A Gathering, organized by Drs. Christina Sharpe and Andrea Davis, York University, November 3–6, 2021.
Register for the Gathering now!

A Map to the Door of No Return at 20: A Gathering

This 4-day virtual webinar and participatory workshop takes place from November 3–6, 2021, where artists, scholars and writers will gather to take stock of, reflect on, and extend the important work that Dionne Brand’s A Map to the Door of No Return: Notes to Belonging has done in the world. Register now!

There are few works published in the past 20 years that have had as profound and generative an influence on diverse audiences as Dionne Brand’s A Map to the Door of No Return. A poetic text comprised of essays, memories, vignettes, historical fragments, and readings of painting and literature toward a theorization of Diasporic Black life (Toronto and Vancouver, Johannesburg, Grenada and Trinidad) in the wake of slavery, A Map to the Door of No Return has inspired and challenged readers in North America and around the world who have taken up Brand’s work on the door as schema—the opposite of a shoring up of a narrative of origins—and its challenges to what nation and belonging might mean, after that step through the ‘door of no return.’ In the academic realm, Map has been the subject of theses and dissertations, quotations and citations appear in the work of literary scholars of Canadian literature, Caribbean literature, Diaspora literature and literary theory, but also in the work of historians, sociologists, visual artists, anthropologists, and theorists across a range of disciplines. Outside of the academy, Map has inspired a variety of expressive responses. Map introduces and puts pressure on any number of terms in relation to Black life: Cartography and Geography; Memory; Longing; Return; Belonging; Archive; Diaspora; Literature; History. Map continues to be a generative point of departure for work in Black Studies.

Organized by Drs. Christina Sharpe and Andrea Davis, York University.

For a full list of participants and schedule of events, visit: www.maptothedoorat20.com.


Mohamed Abdulkarim Ali was born in Mogadishu, Somalia, in 1985, and finds himself in Toronto today. His memoir entitled Angry Queer Somali Boy: A Complicated Memoir (2019) was published by University of Regina Press. His forthcoming book is a collection of essays about urban spaces, to be published by Knopf.

Christina Battle is an artist, curator and educator based in amiskwacîwâskahikan, (also known as Edmonton, Alberta), within the Aspen Parkland: the transition zone where prairie and forest meet. Battle’s work focuses on thinking deeply about the concept of disaster and the ways in which it might be utilized as a framework for social change. Much of this work extends from her recent PhD dissertation (2020) which looked closer to community responses to disaster: the ways in which they take shape, and especially to how online models might help to frame and strengthen such response. She collaborates with Serena Lee as SHATTERED MOON ALLIANCE and has exhibited internationally in festivals and galleries as both artist and curator, most recently at: The MacKenzie Art Gallery (Regina), The Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba (Brandon), The Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art (Colorado), Latitude 53 (Edmonton), The John & Maggie Mitchell Gallery (Edmonton), Harbourfront Centre (Toronto), Capture Photography Festival (Vancouver); Forum Expanded at the Berlinale (Berlin), Blackwood Gallery (Mississagua), Trinity Square Video (Toronto), and Untitled Art Society (Calgary).

Kevin Adonis Browne is a Caribbean American photographer, writer, and speaker, whose visual and written work exist at the intersection of fine art photography and memoir. He is the author of two books: Tropic Tendencies: Rhetoric, Popular Culture, and the Anglophone Caribbean (2013) and HIGH MAS: Carnival and the Poetics of Caribbean Culture (2018). He has taught at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Bentley University, The University of the West Indies-St Augustine, and is currently Associate Professor of Writing Studies, Rhetoric, and Composition at Syracuse University.

Sandra Brewster is a Canadian visual artist based in Toronto whose work has been exhibited nationally and abroad. Through her community-based practice, she engages with themes including identity, representation, and memory, centering a Black presence located in Canada. The daughter of Guyanese-born parents, she is especially attuned to the experiences of people of Caribbean heritage and their ongoing relationships with back home. Brewster’s meditations on being and place are expressed within her drawings, video, and photo-based mixed media works that range from 2-dimensional pieces to installations that incorporate the architecture of spaces.
Her works are currently on view as part of Afro-Atlantic Histories, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (through January 17, 2022), Breaking The Frame, curated by Phillip Prodger, Royal Ontario Museum (through January 16, 2022) and Fragments of Epic Memory, curated by Julie Crooks, Art Gallery of Ontario (through February 21, 2022) and Blur, an installation in the atrium of Agnes Etherington Art Centre. Upcoming exhibitions include: Blur, Hartnett Gallery, University of Rochester, NY, USA (2022); and, The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, Toronto, ON, Canada (2022).

Cecily Nicholson is the author of Triage, From the Poplars, winner of the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize, and Wayside Sang, which won the Governor General's award for English-language poetry. She volunteers with community impacted by carcerality, and coordinates education and public programs with Surrey Art Gallery. Cecily was the 2021 Writer-in-Residence for the University of Windsor.

Chantal Gibson is an award-winning writer-artist-educator living on the ancestral lands of the Coast Salish Peoples. Working in the overlap between literary and visual art, her work confronts colonialism head on, imagining the voices silenced in the spaces and omissions left by cultural and institutional erasure. Her visual art has been exhibited in museums and galleries across Canada and the US. Her debut book of poetry, How She Read (Caitlin Press, 2019) explores the representation of Black women in Canadian history, art, literature. It won the 2020 Pat Lowther Memorial Award and the 2020 Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize; and was shortlisted for the prestigious 2020 Griffin Poetry Prize. Her follow-up collection, with/holding (Caitlin Press, 2021) was released in September. A recipient of the 2021 3M National Teaching Fellowship, Gibson teaches in the School of Interactive Arts & Technology at Simon Fraser University.

Canisia Lubrin is a writer, editor, and critic. Her books are Voodoo Hypothesis (2017), The Dyzgraphxst (2020), and Code Noir (Knopf, 2023). In 2021, Lubrin won the Griffin Poetry Prize, OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature, Derek Walcott Prize, the Windham-Campbell Prize in poetry, among others. Lubrin is inaugural Shaftesbury WIR at Victoria College, University of Toronto, Assistant Professor and incoming MFA in Creative Writing Coordinator in the School of English & Theatre Studies at the University of Guelph, where she completed her MFA in Creative Writing.

Abdi Osman is a Somali-Canadian multidisciplinary artist whose work focuses on questions of black masculinity as it intersects with Muslim and queer identities. Osman’s work has been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions, as well as festivals, across Canada and internationally such as at the Art Museum at the University of Toronto, the Gardiner Museum, the Art Gallery of Mississauga, Thames Art Gallery, The National Museum of Kenya (Kenya), Goethe Institute, Johannesburg (South Africa) and Iwalewahaus The Centre for African Contemporary Art and Culture (Germany). His work has been widely written about and published in academic, arts, and cultural studies anthologies, journals, and catalogues including Archi-feministes!; Art contemporain, theories feministes/Contemporary Art, Feminist Theories, Writing Black Canada: Transitions, the Journal of Canadian Studies, Public, Kapsula Magazine and Drain: Journal of Contemporary Art and Culture and Canadian Art. Osman holds an MFA in Documentary Media from Ryerson University and a B.A. in African Studies from the University of Toronto. He has held fellowships and participated in artist residencies at the Interdisciplinary Center for Culture and Creativity at the University of Saskatchewan, the Bayreuth Academy of Advanced African Studies at the University of Bayreuth, Germany, the McColl Centre for Visual Arts in Charlotte, North Carolina, and currently at the Mark Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies at the University of Toronto where he is also a fellow at the Queer and Trans Research Lab (QTRL).

Camille Turner is an explorer of race, space, home and belonging. Straddling media, social practice and performance art, her work has been presented throughout Canada and internationally. Wanted, a collaboration with Camal Pirbhai, was shown most recently at the Art Gallery of Ontario and uses the trope of fashion to transform 18th century newspaper posts by Canadian slave owners into contemporary fashion ads. Freedom Tours, created collaboratively with Cree-Metis artist Cheryl L’Hirondelle is a national commission for LandMarks 2017/Repères 2017 that consists of participatory, site-specific events that re-imagine and reanimate land and water from Black and Indigenous perspectives. The Afronautic Research Lab is a reading room in which participants encounter buried histories. The Landscape of Forgetting, a walk created collaboratively with Alana Bartol and sonic walks HUSH HARBOUR and The Resistance of Peggy Pompadour evoke sites of Black memory that reimagine the Canadian landscape. Miss Canadiana, one of her earliest projects, challenges perceptions of Canadianness and troubles the unspoken binary of “real Canadian” and “diverse other”. Camille is the founder of Outerregion, an Afrofuturist performance group. She has lectured at various institutions such as at the University of Toronto, Algoma University and the Toronto School of Art. Turner is a graduate of the Ontario College of Art and Design and York University’s Masters in Environmental Studies program, where she is currently a PhD candidate.


Ellyn Walker is a curator who brings diverse experience working in and with artist-run centres, public galleries and museums, community organizations, and universities across the lands now known as Canada. Her award-winning curatorial projects demonstrate a continued commitment to thinking interdisciplinarily, and have been presented at such institutions as the Blackwood, Art Gallery of Mississauga, Thames Art Gallery, Gardiner Museum, and YYZ Artists Outlet. Most recently, she curated the public art project Shadowboxing with her ongoing collaborator Abdi Osman in downtown Toronto, presented by Trinity Square Video and the ArQuives. Her writing has been widely published in art anthologies such as Desire Change: Contemporary Feminist Art in Canada (McGill-Queens & MAWA), Sonny Assu: A Selective History (Heritage House), Craft on Demand: The New Politics of the Handmade (Bloomsbury), and in Making (Eco)Logical: Locating Canadian Arts in the Environmental Humanities (Wilfred Laurier); as well as in academic journals (Public, Journal of Curatorial Studies, RACAR), art magazines (Fuse, C Magazine, Prefix Photo), museum catalogues (Art Museum at University of Toronto, Surrey Art Gallery) and online. She has studied at OCAD University, the University of Toronto, and McGill University, and holds a PhD in Cultural Studies from Queen’s University, where her research focused on decolonizing curatorial methodologies. Extending her doctoral research, Walker is currently developing a co-edited anthology on contemporary critical and experimental curatorial practices in Canada with Michelle Jacques. She is currently Acting Director/Curator of the Blackwood at the University of Toronto Mississauga, where she is also an Assistant Professor, Teaching Stream, in the Department of Visual Studies.