23 Jan Bunny Hidden In Mandela Statue Ear Causes Stir In South Africa
The new 29.5-foot sculpture of Nelson Mandela is billed as the biggest statue of the South African leader. It also has a tiny, barely visible quirk: a sculpted rabbit tucked inside one of the bronze ears.
South African officials want the miniature bunny removed from the statue, which was unveiled outside the government complex in Pretoria, the capital, on Dec. 16, a day after Mandela’s funeral. The department of arts and culture said it didn’t know the two sculptors, Andre Prinsloo and Ruhan Janse van Vuuren, had added a rabbit, said to be a discreet signature on their work.
The bronze rabbit, sitting on its haunches with one floppy ear, is about half the height of the ear canal.
“It doesn’t belong there,” said Mogomotsi Mogodiri, a department spokesman. “The statue represents what everyone in South Africa is proud of.”
His department said in a statement that there are discussions on “how best to retain the integrity of the sculpture without causing any damage or disfigurement.”
Translation: pull the rabbit out of the ear without botching the statue. The giant work stands with arms outstretched, symbolizing Mandela’s devotion to inclusiveness, outside the Union Buildings, where the body of the prisoner who opposed white rule and became South Africa’s first black president lay in state after his Dec. 5 death at the age of 95.
Telephone calls and emails sent by The Associated Press to the artists were not immediately returned.
Earlier this week, South Africa’s Beeld newspaper quoted the artists as saying they added the rabbit as a “trademark” after officials would not allow them to engrave their signatures on the statue’s trousers. They also said the rabbit represented the pressure of finishing the sculpture on time because “haas” — the word for rabbit in the Dutch-based Afrikaans language — also means “haste.”
Paul Mashatile, arts and culture minister, said the sculptors have apologized for any offense to those who felt the rabbit was disrespectful toward the legacy of Mandela.