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Pretoria - The addition of a rabbit to the newly erected statue of former president Nelson Mandela at the Union Buildings by its sculptors is regrettable, the company contracted to create the figure said on Wednesday.
“It is regrettable that the artists chose this way of expressing their opinion about not signing the sculpture, and that they felt it should be kept secret from their clients, (the company) and the Department of Arts and Culture,” Koketso Growth CEO Dali Tambo said in a statement.
“Our working relationship throughout the project was one of great trust and mutual respect, and I really feel that at any time they could have discussed the issue and not have resorted to what can almost be seen as a senseless prank.”
Tambo said that after an agreement between the company, which was assigned to create and install the nine-metre figure, and the government's “statue steering committee”, the artists were instructed that no marks, including signatures, would be engraved on the surface of the bronze statue.
The names of the artists would be printed on plaques, which were yet to be installed in the area surrounding the figure, Tambo said.
The sculptors apologised on Tuesday for secretly adding a rabbit to their work. The Department of Arts and Culture accepted their apology.
Department spokesman Josias Pila said a more appropriate artist signature would have been preferred, and that the department was considering how to retain the sculpture's integrity without damaging it.
Andre Prinsloo and Ruhan Janse van Vuuren, who sculpted the statue, told Beeld newspaper the rabbit was a “small trademark” of their work, as the department had not allowed 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.”
Tambo said the company accepted the sculptors' apology and had offered to assist the department in maintaining the statue's integrity.
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.