South African leaders are not amused by the bronze rabbit that sculptors hid in the right ear of a Nelson Mandela statue that was unveiled after the civil rights icon’s death in December, the BBC reports.
The government has ordered that the rabbit—which was inserted as a kind of signature, as well as a representation of the speed with which the statue had to be completed—be removed in order to “restore dignity back to the statue,” a spokesman told the BBC.
According to the news site, haas, which means rabbit in Afrikaans, also means haste.
“We don’t think it’s appropriate because Nelson Mandela never had a rabbit on his ear,” Mogomotsi Mogodiri, spokesman for the Department of Arts and Culture, told the BBC. “We’d want people to see that statue as a symbol of hope, not about something like a rabbit.” The sculpture is located at government headquarters in Pretoria, South Africa’s administrative capital.
Andre Prinsloo and Ruhan Janse van Vuuren, the two artists behind the work, have since apologized, and discussions are currently taking place to figure out when the rabbit will be removed.
The sculptors said they added the rabbit after they were prohibited from engraving their signatures on the pants of the statue. It was also a representation of their very tight deadline. “The time factor was big, and at times we had to work hard,” Prinsloo told Beeld, a South African newspaper, insisting that the “small symbol” did not take away from the statue.
“You need a long lens or binoculars to see it,” he said. “During the molding process, a lot of people had seen the statue up close, and nobody noticed it.”
Mogodiri denied that the artists were not allowed to put their signatures on the statue, saying that they never asked for permission in the first place. “Nothing of that sort happened. If a request was made, we would have considered it,” he said.