Bernard "Ben" Hana, a.k.a. "Blanket Man", (8 February 1957 – 15 January 2012) was a homeless man who wandered the inner city streets of Wellington, New Zealand. He was a local fixture and something of a celebrity, and was typically found on the footpath in the precincts of Cuba Street and Courtenay Place.
Hana was a self-proclaimed devotee of the Māori sun god Tama-nui-te-rā, and claimed that he should wear as few items of clothing as possible, as an act of religious observance. As a result, he would sometimes remove all his clothing, which resulted in the consequent attendance of police officers.
His name of "Blanket Man" was a reference to his usual mode of dress, which was a single blanket, long dreadlocks and either a loin cloth or briefs. His activities and presence provoked a degree of public debate within Wellington.
Judicial hearings and convictions
Hana was arrested and imprisoned several times for offences including public nudity and possession of cannabis. His criminal record reportedly ran 17 pages long. In 1979, he was convicted of drunk driving causing death.
In 2010, a judge ordered that Hana be made a mental health patient to be housed in Wellington Hospital's psychiatric ward 27, where "he will have clean clothes, regular meals, and no access to drink and drugs." In the same year he was released back onto the streets without any notable change in character. In his later years he was a diagnosed schizophrenic under a community treatment order which allowed forced medical treatment as an outpatient.
With his distinctive look and high visibility location, Hana became something of a local celebrity. In general, he was tolerated by some shopkeepers outside whose premises he sat, and by passers-by, although there have been times of opposition from other shopkeepers. Also, on occasions when he decided to push the boundaries of offensive behaviour, police officers were likely to be in attendance. As someone who departed from the patterns of normal behaviour, Hana had become a figure of amusement, sympathy, disgust and even some academic interest. During the 2006 Rugby Sevens tournament, one costumed group appeared in dreads and blankets, mimicking his distinctive look.
Hana featured in several works:
- 2012 Blanket Man tribute song created by Leon Mitchell, sung by Michael Murphy, recorded and released by ZM radio https://web.archive.org/web/20120122091733/http://www.zmonline.com/player/ondemand/blanketman-song
- "A Different Way of Life" by Marcelina Mastalerz, an interview with Hana
- Te Whanau o Aotearoa — Caretakers of the Land, a New Zealand documentary film by Errol Wright and Abi King-Jones.
- In 2007 Victoria University of Wellington sociology lecturer Mike Lloyd and PhD student Bronwyn McGovern delivered a presentation titled "World Famous in Wellington: Blanket Man as contemporary celebrity" to the New Zealand Folklore Symposium
- "The man behind the blanket" The Dominion Post – Saturday, 19 June 2010 – Tom Hunt.
Hana, age 54, died in Wellington Hospital at 3:35 p.m. on 15 January 2012 of suspected viral myocarditis. However, he was suffering medical problems stemming from heavy alcohol use and malnutrition. A temporary shrine was created outside the ANZ Bank on Courtenay Place, a location where Hana could often be found. Messages were written on the building's facade, and flowers, candles, food and other items were left in tribute.
- Hunt, Tom (19 June 2010). "The man behind the blanket". The Dominion Post. Retrieved 19 September 2011.
- "Wellington icon 'Blanket Man' dies". 15 January 2012.
- "Tributes pour in – but who really was Blanket Man?". 3 News NZ. 16 January 2012.
- Trust: A true story of Women and Gangs. Pip Desmond. 2009. Page 22.
- "Free if he wears his pants". Stuff.co.nz. 1 January 2009.
- "Blanket Man guilty on cannabis charge". Stuff.co.nz. 22 January 2008.
- "Blanket Man Flown Home". Stuff.co.nz. 6 November 2010.
- "Sevens group copy Blanket Man". Stuff.co.nz. Archived from the original on 23 February 2007.
- "1/4 Te Whanau o Aotearoa – Caretakers of the Land". video.google.com. 2009.
- "Academic unravels Blanket Man". Stuff.co.nz. 5 December 2007.
- "The man behind the blanket". Stuff.co.nz. 19 June 2010.
- "Wellington icon 'Blanket Man' dies". 3 News NZ. 15 January 2012.
- "Wellington's 'Blanket Man' Ben Hana dies". stuff.co.nz. 15 January 2012.
- Tributes to Ben Hana
- "Gareth Morgan to cover Blanket Man's funeral costs". 3 News NZ. 17 January 2012.
Aunt Jemima Prophecy: Cobra Sign is a novel by Steve Kenya. It is loosely based on the life of Ben Hana.
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