Nelson Mandela may no longer be living, but that hasn’t stopped the man from making history.
This week, a very small bronze rabbit was discovered inside the ear of the Mandela statue outside the Union Buildings in Pretoria. The tiny rabbit is believed to be the first of its kind inside the ear of a monument made in the likeness of a major world figure.
Though it looks like it won’t be for long.
The department of arts and culture has written to sculptors Ruhan Janse van Vuuren and André Prinsloo, asking them to remove the rabbit as soon as possible, according to South Africa’s News 24.
They also asked for a written apology addressed to the Mandela family.
The sculptors said they placed the rabbit in Mandela’s ear in lieu of being able to add their signatures to the statue. There is also a hidden joke in the rabbit, since the artists were under a tight deadline to complete the statue and the Afrikaans word for “hare” (“haas”) also means “haste.”
The government appears offended, but most people seem to find the rabbit funny and want it to stay. Here’s what Twitter has to say:
The Mandela statue sculptors have been ordered to remove the rabbit. Talk about splitting hares. http://t.co/G9uoZV0XLv
— Gus Silber (@gussilber) January 21, 2014
I say keep the bunny rabbit in Mandela's ear. These days we only have depressing news, we need some humor in our lives #SaveTheRabbit
— Wian Esterhuizen (@wianesterhuizen) January 21, 2014
— Kanthan Pillay (@KanthanPillay) January 21, 2014
The Guardian points out that Mandela’s statue got off easy given the benign nature and diminutive size of the hidden rabbit.
Other artists with a bone to pick weren’t so reserved. Michelangelo, for instance, shoved a money box under the elbow of Lorenzo de' Medici’s statue in Florence, criticizing the family’s obscene wealth.