Ringling College of Art and Design Liberal Arts faculty Dr. Genevieve Hill-Thomas contributed to a recently published tome on notable West African fashion designer Pathé’O, who is famed for raising the global profile of traditional textiles like Burkina Faso’s faso dan fani.
Released in August 2023 in both English and French, Pathé’O includes an interview with the artist himself by Dr. Hill-Thomas, among contributions from other international authorities on African art and culture.
Pathé’O was born in Burkina Faso and made his home in Côte d’Ivoire, where he has been a leader in promoting African-made products and fashions throughout the world. His recent collaborations included a piece inspired by Nelson Mandela for the Dior Cruise 2020 collection.
According to a release from the Zurich-based publisher, Edition Patrick Frey, “The book explores topics ranging from the fashion and textile industry to labour migration, cultural heritage, politics and showbiz, and spans an arc from the past to the present.” A copy of the book, which is bound in African batik cloth, is currently available at Ringling College’s Alfred R. Goldstein Library.
Said Dr. Hill-Thomas, “One of the things that I’m most proud of was that the creators of this book are working with artists to produce something that’s not solely an art book and not solely an academic text. You can feel it and you can understand it visually, and that history is there to contextualize that. So there’s no boundary between art and art history. Which is a great analogy for Ringling College.”
Dr. Hill-Thomas, who grew up knitting and weaving Eastern European textiles with her Polish family, wrote her dissertation on the traditional Burkinabé cloth faso dan fani. She teaches the Ringling College Liberal Arts class, Fashion, Power, and Identity in Africa.
When she spoke with Pathé’O for the book in 2021, the two connected on topics like weaving and dying techniques. “Because we had both grown up with textiles, he was telling me a lot of information we don’t normally talk about in interviews,” she said.
Liberal Arts courses at Ringling College are taught by artists and designers and developed specifically to inform the artwork and aid the development of emerging creatives. Courses explore myriad cultures, taboo ideas, psychology, science fiction, classical mythology, scientific theories, and so much more. Students enter discussions and question standing norms and emerge as artists and designers who are relevant, thoughtful, and original.
Genevieve Hill-Thomas holds a Ph.D. in the history of art from Indiana University, Bloomington. Her dissertation, Faso Dan Fani: Marka Textiles in Burkina Faso, was supported by a Fulbright fellowship. An article based on this work, “Silk in the Sahel: Tuntun and Marka Faso Dan Fani in Northwestern Burkina Faso,” was published in the journal African Arts, and her latest essay on Burkinabè fashion and politics is included in the aforementioned book Pathé’O. She is currently an art history professor in Ringling College’s Liberal Arts Department as well as the College’s Fulbright Program Advisor. Her most recent work with NGO DIMA art school in Niger combines her love of African art history with her background in nonprofit development, K-12 art education, and textile arts.