JOHANNESBURG – The South African government has ordered the removal of a rabbit that was secretly sculpted into a recently unveiled statue of Nelson Mandela, an official said Wednesday.
The artists who built the 9-meter-tall bronze colossus in Pretoria added a rabbit into the ear of the statue without clearance from government.
“We want to restore the integrity of the sculpture as soon as possible,” said Mogomotsi Mogodiri, spokesman for the ministry of arts and culture.
The two bronze sculptors — Andre Prinsloo and Ruhan Janse van Vuuren — who added the animal as their “signature” of the work have apologized for doing so without permission.
It was unclear how long it would take to extract the rabbit.
The head of the company that was contracted by government to erect the statue, which in turn hired the two artists, said the artists’ action was “regrettable” and akin to a “senseless prank.”
Dali Tambo, chairman of Koketso Growth said it had from the beginning been decided against having the artists engrave their names on the statue. Instead, their names were to be on a nearby plaque. “It is regrettable that the artists chose this way of expressing their opinion about not signing the sculpture,” said Tambo, who is also the son of one of the leading anti-apartheid politicians, Oliver Tambo.
Built at a cost of 8 million rand (about $740,000), the 4.5-ton sculpture is the largest of the many Mandela statues erected around the world. It was unveiled Dec. 16, just a day after Mandela was buried following his death on Dec. 5.