No Shortcut to Heaven

Osei-Duro's summer 2019 artists in residence were Essence Harden and Jihaari Terry. They had previously modeled for us, and you can read the full 2018 interview we did with these friends here. Below Essence writes about their surprising experience in Accra, and the bifurcated results:


Plans are goofy things that wrestle with the inevitability of change. For Jihaari and I, they are the stitches that form a sense of structure and allow flexible days to become more rigid and sure. Un-profound (this sense of time) and yet deeply impactful, this is how we got to Accra in the summer of 2019 to participate as residents with Osei-Duro.

A happy couple stand against a light pink textured wall. One wears a green dress and the other a white t-shirt.

The residency is an open and fluid call to artists and creatives to produce whatever they wish in a supported environment, away from home. We weaved our interlocking and diverging interests—Jihaari, a music producer and vinyl DJ and me an art curator and writer—to make a plan that would take us to various sites within Ghana. Our idea was something like a traveling radio show where diasporic blackness, art practices, and sound would wind themselves together, making a material archive (all recorded on cassette) of ephemeral moments. We would journey throughout the country, Accra, Kumasi, Cape Coast, and Tagbo Falls, capturing the sound of city and rural scapes, highlighting vinyl collected along the way, and conducting interviews with visual and performing artists. This was the stated goal; this was the drawing force; this is what we thought to do with our thirty days in the black star state. But the thing about plans, that part about them being somewhat (to absolutely) impractical, is that planning is always a play/gamble with time. We wagered on the day to day being full and surprising but not the terms themselves being reconstituted. We bet, and we lost because two days before leaving, we learned I was pregnant.

Pregnancy can be a lot and was a wild early experience, which has become an exceedingly chill metamorphosis the further along I have gone. Becoming pregnant weeks before our leaving and then finding out days before our departure had a tremendous impact on our time in Accra. There's a host of well-known ailments/discomforts that pop up within those first twelve weeks, and I experienced a range of shit from extreme fatigue to a relentless all day (never just morning) nausea. Our cute intra Ghana travel plans were uprooted, and instead our comfort in Accra become a focus. The weather was hot and lovely, and days were spent at markets, eating fruit, and doing Accra only studio visits. The residency residence was situated within the borders of Osei-Duro HQ and, as our time kept us firmly within the city, surrounded by local and small manufacturing processes, this changed our creative plans.

Monochrome snapshot of two women standing outdoors, amidst lush greenery.

The ethos of Osei Duro's process; up/recycle, locally produce, and small-batch productions was the foundation to our subsequent creative changes. Watching the small team create patterns, receive and organize fabrics, working with local fabricators and dyers, and arrange the upcoming seasons felt like a gateway to creating something of our own. This along with Accra's thriving community of seamstresses, tailors, and screen printing craftspeople meant the reality of that creation, whatever it may be, was palpable. Creating wearable visual art as an everyday practice that spoke to place, comfort, and inventiveness was our aesthetic world of Accra.

In the end, what came of all this pondering and resting and looking and engaging was a pair of tie/wrap pants, perfect for a variety of shapes and sizes. Determined to use only materials that were already at hand, we found a big piece of recycled denim from Guatemala, kept by Osei-Duro for an undetermined future project. Utilizing the open method of Thai fisher pants and Japanese workwear, these pants slip on and wrap forward or backward, creating a pleating structure that comfortably fits above, at, and below one's waist. Collaborating with our beloved painter friend Meg Fransee on the image, we worked with Ahmed, an artisan at Kantamanto Market and screen-printed the fabric all over with a swirl of our two heads. The pants were drafted between Jihaari and me, Molly Keogh, and Isabelle Le and were tailored by Bawa Isaaka.

Woman stands before a yellow gate, clad in block print grey and white trousers.

The legs are wide, and the material is light making them perfect for hotter weather and fall conditions. They are some of the coziest and structured pants we have ever put on, and they look a true effort of the place and circumstances in which we found ourselves.

Artistic papers with 'OSEI-DURO’ in 3D lettering and detailed pants design sketch.
Person arranging pattern blocks and ruler on floor for a precise project.
Focused tailor at sewing machine in workshop with fabric rolls in background.

Jihaari's first time on a sewing machine.

While we planned for a broadcast and ultimately did find the capacity to conduct interviews with a few artists, collect a few records, and record the sounds we were surrounded by for thirty days, our No Shortcut to Heaven pants became the material manifestation of our goals and interest. We worked across various sites and with multiple people working towards clothing that ignored gendered structure and allowed for comfort for a growing pregnant body and range of other body types. We worked towards a consideration of art scapes within Accra, letting our original plans bend towards what spoke to the actual moment of being, rather than our expectation of what would be. No Shortcut to Heaven Pants are the product of a month of change, chance, and teamwork. Residencies are, in part, a draft of a vision, but the work of being there and doing is really in our ability to take that draft and let it move, to allow work that reflects actual presence. Enjoy these pants, there are only six pairs, and enjoy the soundtrack that goes along with them (to be released soon…), knowing that they came from people working with the flow of time’s unruliness.

Individual in grey trousers with block print face illustrations, face obscured by bucket hat.

Two individuals in a car, one in the front seat and one in the back, engaged in conversation.


David in the No Shortcut Pants from molly keogh on Vimeo.