Johannesburg — The sculptors of the newly-erected statue of former president Nelson Mandela at the Union Buildings have apologised for secretly adding a rabbit to their work, the department of arts and culture said on Tuesday.
"We accept their apology and that their intentions were honourable," department spokesman Josias Pila said in a statement.
He said a more appropriate artist signature would have been preferred, and that the department was considering how to retain the sculpture's integrity with damaging it.
Andre Prinsloo and Ruhan Janse van Vuuren, who sculpted the nine metre bronze-plated statue, told Beeld the rabbit was a "small trademark" of their work, as the department had not allow them to engrave their signatures on the statue's trousers.
They said it also represented the tight deadline to which they worked, as rabbit translated into Afrikaans as "haas", also meant haste.
"The time factor was big and at times we had to work hard," Prinsloo said.
He said the "small symbol" was hidden in the ear and did not detract from the statue.
"You need a long lens or binoculars to see it," he said.
"During the moulding process, a lot of people had seen the statue up close and nobody noticed it."
The department said on Tuesday, that it was unaware of the sculptors' intention to place a rabbit inside the ear of the statue.
"It is unfortunate that the sculptors... chose to place an object in the statue without the knowledge of those who commissioned them," Arts and Culture Minister Paul Mashatile said in a statement.
The statue was unveiled by President Jacob Zuma on December 16, the day after Mandela's funeral, as part of the annual celebrations of Reconciliation Day and the commemoration of the centenary of the Union Buildings.