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No rabbit in Mandela's ear, South African government tells artists

The South African government orders the removal of a rabbit, sculpted as the artists' signature, into the ear of a giant bronze statue of former president Nelson Mandela.

JOHANNESBURG: The South African government has ordered the removal of a rabbit that was secretly sculpted into a recently unveiled statue of Nelson Mandela.

The artists who built the nine metre (30-foot), bronze colossus in Pretoria, added a rabbit into the ear of the statue, as a signature, without informing officials.

"We want to restore the integrity of the sculpture as soon as possible," Mogomotsi Mogodiri, spokesman for the ministry of arts and culture told AFP.

The government said it was unaware of the rabbit's existence until a local newspaper let the cat, or in this case rabbit, out of the bag.

The sculptors -- Andre Prinsloo and Ruhan Janse van Vuuren -- have apologised for the rabbit 'signature' without prior approval.

"We accepted their apology," Mogodiri said, adding it was unclear how long it would take to extract the rabbit from the statue's ear.

The company that was contracted by the government to erect the statue, which in turn hired the two artists, described the artists' action as "regrettable" and akin to a "senseless prank".

Dali Tambo, chairman of Koketso Growth said it had from the beginning, been opposed to engraving the statue and had planned to place a plaque near the statue with the names of the artists. 

"It is regrettable that the artists chose this way of expressing their opinion about not signing the sculpture," said Tambo, who is also the son of leading anti-apartheid politician, Oliver Tambo, who was also a close associate of Nelson Mandela.

Built at a cost of eight million rand (about $740,000), the 4.5-tonne sculpture is the largest of Mandela statues erected around the world.

It was unveiled just a day after Mandela was buried.

Mandela, who became South Africa's first black president after 27 years in apartheid prisons, died on December 5, 2013 at the age of 95.

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