Friday, May 21, 2010

Blanket Man: What's His Story?

Walking through Wellington's Cuba Mall, you may see a sinewy, dreadlocked, maori vagrant sitting on the kerb, wearing only a loincloth: Blanket Man is one of the city's most recognisable characters.
With only a blanket and an iPod, he does not beg or scavenge in rubbish bins, he does not roll his eyes in mute helplessness. He'll smile back if you smile at him. He'll greet you and accept your cigarettes.
His name is Ben Hana, and he's lived this way since 2001. He believes modern social pressures are damaging, and individuals are undervalued. Ben believes in the supremacy and healing power of nature, which is why he's often found sunning himself on traffic islands. He claims that wearing as few clothes as legally allowable is an act of religious observance. He believes no one should hold power, that power is the earth's alone, that all men are free to be free.
Ben is often regarded as the face of Wellington's homeless and yet, if being in Wikipedia is a measure of one's success, then Blanket Man is higher up the social ladder than many. He's been the subject of an academic case study, his image is on t-shirts, he's even attracted urban myths, such as that:
+...he's an esteemed psychology professor engaged in an extended social experiment.
+...he's the son of a reclusive Wellington millionaire.
+...he has enough money from social benefits but chooses to live rough.
Whatever the truth about Blanket Man, he adds colour to our capitol city. He reminds me of the theme of Arrested Development's 1992 hit, Mr.Wendal: its lyrics are worth thinking about...

PS: 16 June 2010 - Blanket Man's been all wrapped up: a court has ordered him into hospital as a mental health patient.
PS: 15 Jan.2012 - Blanket Man Ben Hana died today in Wellington Hospital, aged 54.
PS: 17 Jan.2012 - Wellington businessman offers to pay for Blanket Man's funeral.
PS: 19 Jan.2012 - Farewell to Ben Hana today...churr, Brother.

1 comment:

Craig from Wellington said...

Hey, I've seen this guy a few times. Didn't know his name though. Thanks for this. Cool!