JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- When Nelson Mandela's sculpture was unveiled at the seat of government in Pretoria after his burial last month, no one noticed one small detail: a bronze rabbit nestled in his right ear.
The Department of Arts and Culture has ordered the removal of the rabbit in order to restore the dignity of the 30-foot bronze-plated sculpture of South Africa's first black president.
The rabbit, reminiscent of a Disney character, was secretly added by the artists, Ruhan Janse Van Vuuren and Andre Prinsloo, in lieu of a signature. It was also a comment on the tight deadline to complete the job, according to comments from Prinsloo to the Beeld newspaper; the Afrikaans word haas means both rabbit and haste.
They cheekily added the "small trademark" after the department denied them permission to add their signatures to the sculpture on the trouser leg of the figure, according to Beeld.
Prinsloo told the Mail and Guardian that he was "sorry that such a small thing could cause such a palaver."
The artists, both experienced bronze sculptors who have worked on sculptures of famous South Africans, did not respond to calls and emails Wednesday.
Paul Mashatile, South Africa's minister for arts and culture, said in a statement that the artists had apologized and the apology had been accepted.