The Nelson Mandela statue, a 30-foot-tall bronze sculpture
unveiled last month in South Africa's capital of Pretoria, contains a rabbit in one of its ears.
The miniscule, barely visible rabbit was placed inside Mandela's ear by the statue's two sculptors, Andre Prinsloo and Ruhan Janse van Vuuren, who said the small hare was a discreet signature. South African officials refused their requests to add their signatures on the piece.
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The unique signature was not a welcome addition by government officials, who earlier this week demanded it be removed to retain the statue's integrity, the Associated Press reported
"It doesn't belong there," said Mogomotsi Mogodiri, a department spokesman. "The statue represents what everyone in South Africa is proud of."
The heritage development company Koketso Growth was selected to handle the statue's creation.
"That statue isn't just a statue of a man, it's the statue of a struggle, and one of the most noble in human history," Koketso Growth CEO Dali Tambo said. "So it's belittling, in my opinion, if you then take it in a jocular way and start adding rabbits in the ear."
Tambo added that it would be like if someone had created a statue of President Barack Obama and decided to add a mouse to his nose, the AP noted.
According to Tambo, the artists selected for the project are white and belong to South Africa's Afrikaner minority. Selecting white artists was a deliberate decision; Tambo said it was a way to demonstrate the multi-racial effort behind the project in keeping with Mandela's principle of reconciliation.
The massive statue is located outside the Union Buildings, where in early December the body of the former prisoner, who opposed white rule and became South Africa's first black president, had been displayed for the public to pay their respects.
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