South Africa Has Removed Rabbit From Nelson Mandela Sculpture’s Ear

A sculpture depicting late South African president Nelson Mandela at the Union building in Pretoria, on January 16, 2014. Andre Prinsloo and Ruhan Janse van Vuuren, who sculpted the 30-foot-tall bronze-plated statue, told a local newspaper that the rabbit in the ear of Mandela was a "small trademark" of their work, as the department had not allow them to engrave their signatures on the statue's trousers. The South African government has ordered the removal of the secret rabbit from the recently unveiled artwork. Photo courtesy of STR/AFP/Getty Images.

South Africa is hopping mad about a new public artwork honoring Nelson Mandela after officials discovered a tiny rabbit figurine perched inside the statue’s ear.

The sculpture in Pretoria had to be completed quickly, following the beloved leader’s death on December 5, 2013. The artists, Andre Prinsloo and Ruhan Janse van Vuuren, were told they couldn’t sign their names to the 30-foot-tall sculpture.

Discreetly, they thought, they placed a small rabbit inside Mandela’s ear, a trademark of their work and a reminder of how fast they had finished the piece—haas means both rabbit and haste in Afrikaans.

Their intentions were good, but when word of the bunny leaked out, South African leaders were not happy. Mogomotsi Mogodiri, a government spokesman, spoke to the BBC about the rabbit in January, explaining that “we don’t think it’s appropriate, because Nelson Mandela never had a rabbit in his ear.”

It’s hard to imagine how one might mistake the creature’s presence in an artwork as literal truth, but South African officials were insistent, and the charming creature has since been removed.

Luckily, the little bunny already has an offer of a new home: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has volunteered to adopt it. In a press release, PETA’s associate director, Mimi Bekhechi, made an official request, saying:

Mandela cared about cruelty to animals. . . . We would be honored to use the bronze rabbit, the same animal who proudly leaps across PETA’s logo, to honor Mandela’s vision of a more peaceful, kinder world.

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