Wellington Scoop

Hardly a shrine?

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It shouldn’t really be described as a shrine. There’s nothing sacred about the scribbled messages on the wall of an old Courtenay Place bank building. And no one would have described Blanket Man as a holy person.

[New Zealand Oxford Dictionary’s definition of shrine: A chapel, church, altar, place etc sacred to a holy person, relic etc; tomb of a saint, or casket containing sacred relics; place hallowed by some memory or association]

[Heinemann New Zealand Dictionary’s definition of shrine: any building considered sacred because of historic or religious associations]

There’s no doubting however that a lot of people wanted to say that they remembered Blanket Man, who spent many days and nights on the pavement outside the bank. But instead of writing a letter or sending a card to the family, or giving a donation to the Downtown Community Ministry, they decided to write on the building instead.

All the scribbles help to confirm Wellington’s growing reputation as a graffiti capital. And do they establish a precedent? Will Wellingtonians claim the right to write their thoughts on other buildings linked with people who have died?

The bank itself has moved out, though you can barely read the details of its new address because of the graffiti. Which leaves the owner to clean off all the scrawls that have defaced his building. Or has the council’s anti-graffiti department agreed to help?

The bank hasn’t gone far. Across the intersection this morning, it was preparing to merge its two brands into one building, instead of two. Street musicians sometimes play outside this building on Friday nights. But no one has yet emerged to take the place of Blanket Man and to make a home on the street.

The death of blanket man, and the treatment of homeless people


  1. Grant Buist, 21. January 2012, 18:24

    Has anyone else noticed that the online commentary on Ben Hana’s life and death has become increasingly mean-spirited in the past few days?

  2. Trish Janes, 22. January 2012, 16:53

    I wonder if someone is planning a commemorative statue of Blanket Man. I can just picture a lifelike bronze torso leaning against the lamp post and flowing into the gutter. I really hope not.

  3. Phil C, 2. February 2012, 23:20

    “Wellington’s growing reputation as a graffiti capital”? For the 25 years I lived there it had a secure reputation as a home of talentless taggers. Looks like nothing has changed.

    If people really wanted to commemorate Mr Hana then surely the most appropriate thing to do is to skin up a nice joint of NZ’s finest product and share that with others who were concerned about him.

  4. Jamie, 4. February 2012, 4:13

    I drove a bus past the Blanket Man on literally thousands of occasions over 9 years. Despite all the rhetoric, I can ascertain that for many visitors to Wellington, as well as locals, their comments made looking at him shaking away, appearing drugged or drunk, at times partly on the road being a risk to himself and traffic, were frequently not of a complimentary nature supporting the view that we should be proud of him as a Wellington Icon. What also inspired negative comments was his attempts to ‘lock eyes’ with approaching drivers and with exaggerated facial expressions try to elicit a physical response or reaction of acknowledgement and support. Being honest this can only be described as ‘attention seeking’ in the extreme.

    I know he had his problems and issues that deserve sympathy, but matters should not solely be viewed through ‘rose-tinted glasses’.

  5. Phil, 10. February 2012, 13:59

    Get real Wellington, The fact that we have been dumbed down to think that his behaviour was acceptable is beyond belief. I did not find his profanities amusing or his lifestyle romantic. I wonder how many of our wonderful councillors and public fans had him stay the night at their places. When you spend ratepayers’ money on the statue you can all bring your kids down for a family day , sit around , have a joint , get really drunk. Yes a true role model !!