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Whatchamacallit 122: Rainbow Man Bolo Tie

Bolo Tie

I bought this bolo tie on October 22, 2015, from Keshi, the Zuni connection shop in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

I paid US$450, plus sales tax, using a Visa card.

My receipt states:

Rainbow man Bolo tie
By Fadrian Bowanne
Zuni – (older piece)
Sterlin silver, jet, turquoise,
Coral + mother of pearl

This is the same day I bought my Simpsons / I will not act Indigenous painting, that I showed a few weeks ago.

This is not something I wear regularly – it is, at its core, too American, too Western, for daily wear in Berlin. Plus, I rarely wear jewelry. Thus, it is reserved for special occasions. These are, at best, few and far between. The last time I wore a bolo tie – and not this one – was for a friend’s wedding. Eventually I will show off my other bolo tie in this series.

However, I wanted to start with this one because of its simple beauty. Stealing some text from the Southwest Silver Gallery:

The Rainbow Man, also sometimes referred to as the Rainbow Dancer, is a sacred Zuni Indian guardian spirit identified with the life giving summer rains and the colors of the rainbow after the summer’s rain.

Although the Rainbow figure is not a Kachina, he is very important in Zuni traditions, culture and society. The Rainbow Man is a symbol of protection often seen on the Zuni’s war shields and is a symbol of the rainbow which represents the life sustaining rains for their agricultural importance in the arid American Southwest.

The Rainbow Man was one of the first figures used in traditional Zuni mosaic inlay jewelry. Various Zuni Indian artists started creating mosaic inlay jewelry featuring the Rainbow Man in the 1920’s to the 1940’s and becoming popular by the 1950’s. It is believed that the first creator of the Rainbow Man in Zuni inlay jewelry to be Alonozo Hustito (1903-1987).

Although it looks like Fabien Bowannie has made quite a bit of jewelry, I cannot seem to identify any information about him – other than this bit on Savvy Collector:

Featured in the first volume American Indian Jewelry by Gregory Schaaf, Fadrian Bowannie was first active in 1974. Bowannie is known for his channel inlay jewelry using silver, coral, turquoise, jet and mother of pearl in bracelets, earrings, necklaces, pendants, pins and rings. This jeweler is also named in Gordon Levy’s book Who’s Who in Zuni Jewelry (1980), Zuni Jewelry by Theda Bassman and Barton Wright’s 2000 Hallmarks of the Southwest.

Rainbow man and butterflies are his favorite designs.

With respect to bolo ties in general, I might note that the person I remember wearing them most often was my paternal grandfather. By the time I knew my grandfather he was well into retirement. I would see him and my paternal grandmother every year at Christmas, when they came to visit, and some summers at their summer home in upstate New York. I do not ever recall him wearing a traditional tie, but I do remember him occasionally fussing with a bolo tie.

Considering that he was a true New Yorker, I have no idea why he was into bolo ties; presumably it was somehow related to the fact that his progeny moved to Denver.

That said, bolo ties are not something that I really associate with Denver. I tend to associate them with the American Southwest – specifically Native Americans – and with cowboys who have fancied themselves up for a nice night out on the town.

I can only imagine that I’ve offended somebody with my random thoughts. Educate me in the comments.


During the Covid-19 crisis, I am going to try and make a point of writing a blog post about an object in my home.

We’ll see how long this lasts.

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