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January 23, 2014 1:41 PM   Subscribe

A newly unveiled, nine meter tall statue of Nelson Mandela turns out to have an unplanned bonus feature. A small rabbit perched in Mandela's ear. The South African government is not happy. And one has to wonder what it is about Nelson Mandela that the universe insists on doing weird things to him now that he's gone.
posted by Naberius (88 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
"We don't think it's appropriate because Nelson Mandela never had a rabbit on his ear," Mogomotsi Mogodiri, the spokesman for the Department of Arts and Culture, told the BBC's Focus on Africa radio programme.

"We'd want people to see that statue as a symbol of hope, not about something like a rabbit."
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 1:46 PM on January 23 [5 favorites]


He said it would be like depicting Barack Obama with a mouse in his nose.

EXCEPT THAT WOULD BE AWESOME
posted by JHarris at 1:47 PM on January 23 [67 favorites]


So it's a signature of the artists' work. What's the big deal?
posted by Melismata at 1:47 PM on January 23


Those wascally welders.
posted by Dasein at 1:47 PM on January 23 [35 favorites]


> So it's a signature of the artists' work. What's the big deal?

The memorial is about Mandela, not the artists.

it's still awesome though
posted by felixc at 1:49 PM on January 23 [5 favorites]


Unconfirmed reports that the sculptor has been moonlighting as a sign language interpreter
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 1:49 PM on January 23 [45 favorites]


The memorial is about Mandela, not the artists.

I'm not sure a bunny that was so inconspicuous nobody noticed it for weeks stops the memorial from being "about Mandela"--still, they probably shouldn't have done it.
posted by yoink at 1:51 PM on January 23


So it's a signature of the artists' work. What's the big deal?

Point out to me where the guy who did the statue of Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial hid either his signature or a teddy bear, and then I'll agree it's "Not a big deal".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:51 PM on January 23 [2 favorites]


It's nine meters tall. Is this actually, like, visible to ordinary viewers? It seems like much less of a big deal if you have to have a ladder to actually find out that it's there. It seems to have been there like a month before anybody made any fuss; that seems to me to be suitably unobtrusive for a signature on a major public piece of artwork.
posted by Sequence at 1:54 PM on January 23 [2 favorites]


Haha, brilliant.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 1:55 PM on January 23 [2 favorites]


All old men grow a little hare in their ears...
posted by Drew Glass at 1:56 PM on January 23 [97 favorites]


Point out to me where the guy who did the statue of Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial hid either his signature or a teddy bear, and then I'll agree it's "Not a big deal".

You . . . you know about the secret face, right?
posted by The Bellman at 1:56 PM on January 23 [3 favorites]


Point out to me where the guy who did the statue of Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial hid either his signature

D. C. French used casts of his own hands for Lincoln's hands. So the artist's "hand" is right there on the work itself.
posted by yoink at 1:56 PM on January 23 [5 favorites]


I'm deeply disappointed, having interpreted the headline as meaning there was a live rabbit nesting in his ear.

one has to wonder what it is about Nelson Mandela that the universe insists on doing weird things to him now that he's gone

It's like he's become the Laughing Buddha of recent heroic dissidents.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 1:57 PM on January 23 [7 favorites]


I think that's pretty shitty of them. Making sure it's attributed to you properly is fine, but I've always found involving your signature in the content of the work tacky.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 1:59 PM on January 23


He said it would be like depicting Barack Obama with a mouse in his nose

why has nobody photoshopped this yet I mean jeez it's been almost twenty minutes
posted by ook at 2:00 PM on January 23 [3 favorites]


It's a pretty cheesy monument. I much prefer this one.
posted by yoink at 2:04 PM on January 23 [24 favorites]


Rabbit ears in 2014? Can't someone sponsor a cable subscription for Mandela?
posted by Foosnark at 2:04 PM on January 23 [4 favorites]


Sculptor Daniel Chester French used molds of Lincoln's hands cast in 1860 to guide his work. These molds were created with Lincoln's hands in a loose fist.
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:05 PM on January 23


D. C. French used casts of his own hands for Lincoln's hands. So the artist's "hand" is right there on the work itself.

Very smart of him to have included himself in the work in such a way that wouldn't detract from the work itself, as opposed to doing something like sticking a bunny in his ear.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:08 PM on January 23 [3 favorites]


Sculptor Daniel Chester French used molds of Lincoln's hands cast in 1860 to guide his work. These molds were created with Lincoln's hands in a loose fist.

Yeah, he started with the molds of Lincoln's hands, but decided they didn't work, and used his own instead.
posted by yoink at 2:10 PM on January 23


You know what would really kick this up a notch? If they find a tiny Nelson Mandela sculpture in the ears of the bunny.
posted by yoink at 2:12 PM on January 23 [85 favorites]


Lord Ganesha has a mouse and it doesn't detract from his dignity.
posted by winna at 2:12 PM on January 23 [9 favorites]


oh fuck this. I pull rabbits out of my ears all the time. You're telling me that I can do that and the great Nelson Mandela can't? P-fucking-shaw.
posted by IvoShandor at 2:15 PM on January 23 [1 favorite]


Maybe it should have been a worm, that sings "Free Nelson Mandela" by the Specials.
posted by Kabanos at 2:19 PM on January 23 [7 favorites]


Twenty-seven years in prison couldn't touch this man's dignity. HOW COULD A BRONZE BUNNY.
posted by Zerowensboring at 2:21 PM on January 23 [25 favorites]


Well, there's a precedent: when the Greek sculptor Phidias created a statue of Athena, he was supposed to have (impiously) included a self-portrait among the images of warriors decorating on her shield.

History records no bunnies in her ears, though.
posted by meronym at 2:22 PM on January 23 [1 favorite]


Just wait 'til they find the hamster.
posted by Wolfdog at 2:23 PM on January 23 [11 favorites]


Point out to me where the guy who did the statue of Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial hid either his signature

Well he did sculpt him gripping two giant fasces and showing his crotch to congress and his ass to the South...
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 2:23 PM on January 23 [2 favorites]


Oh shit this is going to make me go watch more earwax removal videos on YouTube.
posted by planetesimal at 2:38 PM on January 23 [1 favorite]


Must have made a wrong turn at Mpumalanga
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 2:39 PM on January 23 [6 favorites]


I wonder if would people be as upset if it looked more like a real rabbit than a copy of a chocolate Easter bunny?
posted by vespabelle at 2:44 PM on January 23 [1 favorite]


So I've had this stupid earache / infection for several days and OMG it's suddenly so clear what's causing it ...
posted by maudlin at 2:47 PM on January 23


It's a pretty cheesy monument. I much prefer this one.

Oh damn. That is breathtaking. I don't mind a big traditional statue, but yeah, I'd definitely go out of my way to see that one you linked to given the chance.
posted by this is a thing at 2:49 PM on January 23 [1 favorite]


The rabbit in Nelson Mandela's ear is said to symbolise the pressure of finishing the piece

Because when you're staring down a deadline that's when you want to be diverting significant effort to an Easter Egg.
posted by George_Spiggott at 2:50 PM on January 23


Because when you're staring down a deadline that's when you want to be diverting significant effort to an Easter Egg.

You can tell this is a big deal because the statue wasn't finished.
posted by IvoShandor at 2:53 PM on January 23 [1 favorite]


This reminds me of the recent news about the Gretzky-with-Stanley-Cup statue, where the names Rocky Balboa, Kanye West, Oscar Wilde, and Oprah Winfrey are engraved on the Cup.
posted by Hoopo at 2:54 PM on January 23 [5 favorites]


BlackLeotardFront: "I think that's pretty shitty of them. Making sure it's attributed to you properly is fine, but I've always found involving your signature in the content of the work tacky."

You mean, as tacky as Da Vinci, Goya, Renoir, Monet, Picasso, and Rodin were? Along with nearly every professional artist in the modern world?
posted by IAmBroom at 2:57 PM on January 23 [6 favorites]


I wouldn't have ever thought this would be a big deal, but if people in South Africa do then that's fine. It doesn't seem like it's going to be difficult to remove it; and it's in his earhole so any mark left from the removal will be even less visible than the bunny was.

I wouldn't have thought this disrespectful, but if people feel that way the apology and removal of the bunny should suffice, no?
posted by Hoopo at 3:01 PM on January 23


OMG you guys can you imagine how pissed Mandela himself would have been?
posted by Navelgazer at 3:01 PM on January 23 [10 favorites]


This reminds me of Robert 'Mouseman' Thompson, who put a carved mouse on every piece of furniture he designed. According to Wikipedia: 'Others who continue in his style have adopted similar identifying marks and nicknames, for example Thomas 'Gnomeman' Whittaker, Colin 'Beaverman' Almack, and Wilf 'Squirrelman' Hutchinson.'

Also, the statue of Tennyson in Trinity College, Cambridge, has a pipe bowl hidden among the laurel wreaths, and I don't hear anyone complaining that it's disrespectful to Tennyson.
posted by verstegan at 3:01 PM on January 23 [2 favorites]


Point out to me where the guy who did the statue of Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial hid either his signature or a teddy bear, and then I'll agree it's "Not a big deal".

Well, Abe is throwing sign language signals for his notorious possee of abe's lincolns
posted by srboisvert at 3:06 PM on January 23 [1 favorite]


This reminds me of the recent news about the Gretzky-with-Stanley-Cup statue

You mean the statue commemorating when Gretzky bludgeoned that kid to death with the cup for wearing a Gordy Howe jersey?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 3:10 PM on January 23


There's builder graffiti under the Lincoln Memorial.
posted by brujita at 3:12 PM on January 23


You mean, as tacky as Da Vinci, Goya, Renoir, Monet, Picasso, and Rodin were? Along with nearly every professional artist in the modern world?

It's not just the visual artists!
posted by Lutoslawski at 3:16 PM on January 23 [1 favorite]


IAmBroom: You mean, as tacky as Da Vinci, Goya, Renoir, Monet, Picasso, and Rodin were? Along with nearly every professional artist in the modern world?

Well, time passes and values change, I suppose.
posted by curious.jp at 3:22 PM on January 23


Maybe Chartres was "anonymous" because was built over the course of 400 years.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 3:27 PM on January 23


Well shit, if I spent 400 years on a project I know I'd sign my name at the end.
posted by this is a thing at 3:32 PM on January 23


Very smart of him to have included himself in the work in such a way that wouldn't detract from the work itself, as opposed to doing something like sticking a bunny in his ear.

Please explain, justifying your claims, how this in any way detracts from the monument.
posted by kafziel at 3:36 PM on January 23 [1 favorite]


Because it was supposed to be a monument to Mandela, and the people paying for it wanted people thinking about Mandela when visiting it, not playing spot the rabbit and giggling? It's not very hard to figure out.
posted by tavella at 3:42 PM on January 23 [2 favorites]


The Bellman: “You . . . you know about the secret face, right?”

The link you gave says that that story is emphatically false, and that there is no "secret face." But... that's just what the Park Service wants us to believe, right?
posted by koeselitz at 3:48 PM on January 23 [1 favorite]


How often do we see NPR and the NPS disagreeing about something as concrete as Lincoln's hands?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:48 PM on January 23


This reminds me of that weird statue of Martin Luther King Jr. with the weirdly cropped quote and the "uncarved" thing. Why is a straightforward memorial statue of a beloved civil rights leader too much to ask.
posted by bleep at 3:51 PM on January 23 [4 favorites]


The thing is, the headlines all call it a rabbit, which doesn't really give the correct impression. It's an anthropomorphic cartoon bunny. It's not at all clear what the symbolic intent was at this point, but one seems to invite a different sort of interpretation than the other.
posted by George_Spiggott at 3:52 PM on January 23 [1 favorite]


This reminds me of that weird statue of Martin Luther King Jr. with the weirdly cropped quote and the "uncarved" thing. Why is a straightforward memorial statue of a beloved civil rights leader too much to ask.

you don't understand the religious significance. Why did they call it the *underground* railroad? MLK is god of the American underworld, with his dark skin and dwarf-like stature, he toils in the caverns and fires of the earth producing wonderous tools for the other gods; even Father Washington respects his abilities.
posted by ennui.bz at 4:05 PM on January 23


It's not at all clear what the symbolic intent was at this point, but one seems to invite a different sort of interpretation than the other.

What? It's very clear from the artists's statements to the media:
Earlier this week, the South African newspaper Beeld quoted the artists as saying they added the rabbit as a trademark after officials would not allow them to engrave their signatures on the statue's trousers. They also said the rabbit represented the pressure of finishing the sculpture on time because "haas" – the word for rabbit in the Dutch-based Afrikaans language – also means "haste."
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:11 PM on January 23 [1 favorite]


I am the luckiest sculpter in the world! I just finished casting a giant bronze q-tip!
posted by varion at 4:17 PM on January 23 [4 favorites]


Are you crazy? You'll only push that rabbit further down the ear canal.
posted by planetesimal at 4:19 PM on January 23 [10 favorites]


The rule is never put anything smaller than your giant bronze elbow into your ear.
posted by stopgap at 4:21 PM on January 23 [7 favorites]


Excuse me while I q-tip this out.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:33 PM on January 23


Toronto tour guide infoblast: when Toronto's city hall (now known as Old City Hall) was being constructed at the end of the 19th century, the architect E. J. Lennox approached city council and declared that he wanted to sign his name on the cornerstone. Council refused, partly because he was massively over budget and they felt he needed reining in (IIRC, he ended up spending something on the order of forty times his allotted budget) and partly because they felt it inappropriate. Lennox was disappointed.

Opinions are divided on whether the series of grotesques over the front doors are in fact the city council of the day. There is no doubt whatsoever, though, that in the ornate Romanesque carvings four floor up he did spell out E J LENNOX ARCHITECT 1898 AD in letters three feet tall circling the building.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 4:55 PM on January 23 [6 favorites]


Michaelangelo carved his sig into La Pieta

(but he did regret it)
posted by stinkfoot at 4:55 PM on January 23 [1 favorite]


Ugly statue. Cute rabbit.

Michaelangelo carved his sig into La Pieta

Rumor is that he also put his profile into the beard of his Moses
posted by IndigoJones at 5:34 PM on January 23 [1 favorite]


"That statue isn't just a statue of a man, it's the statue of a struggle, and one of the most noble in human history," Tambo said. "So it's belittling, in my opinion, if you then take it in a jocular way and start adding rabbits in the ear."

Said Mr Tambo, increasing the jocularity exponentially.
posted by numes with an s at 5:51 PM on January 23


"I used to be a beloved world leader, but then I took a rabbit in the ear."
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:58 PM on January 23 [8 favorites]


You know what would have been funny? A small statue of Kyle MacLachlan with a tiny desert mouse in his ear.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 6:03 PM on January 23



I visited DeeCee this past summer. Unfortunately, not only had giant bees built an honeycomb around Washington's Obelisk, but also

the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial was surrounded by chain-link, scaffolding, and tarps as they removed a poorly planned inscription that made it appear MLK had called himself a "drum major".

This too shall pass.

It's a pretty cheesy monument. I much prefer this one.

Yoink, that is wonderful, thanks for showing. I only hope it loads faster in real life.

You know what would really kick this up a notch? If they find a tiny Nelson Mandela sculpture in the ears of the bunny.

On an island.



In a lake.
posted by Herodios at 6:10 PM on January 23 [1 favorite]


Has anybody checked if Mandala had a tiny rabbit in his ear IRL?
posted by srboisvert at 6:30 PM on January 23 [2 favorites]


This part is just wack-a-doo:
They also said the rabbit represented the pressure of finishing the sculpture on time because "haas" – the word for rabbit in the Dutch-based Afrikaans language – also means "haste."

I know whenever I complete a project that will seen by thousands of people for decades to come I always add in a visual pun to indicate that I didn't manage my time very well on this. "Look, the thing is, I have a lot on my plate right now" is the message that I like to send to future generations.
posted by bleep at 6:40 PM on January 23 [5 favorites]


This also reminds me of the interpreter guy with the nonsense hand-signals who turned out to be schizophrenic, having a hallucination on stage and who had done this exact thing before.
posted by bleep at 6:41 PM on January 23


I GUESS THEY GAVE THE STATUE

-o-o

BUNNY EARS

(seriously, how has nobody said that yet? Also: if the statue is so culturally valuable they should have paid the artists appropriate compensation so they wouldn't need to resort to such ends.)
posted by rebent at 7:56 PM on January 23 [1 favorite]


I can see the PSA now:

"Get that motherfucking rabbit out of his motherfucking ear."

Now, who has a distinctive voice for the voiceover?
posted by Ardiril at 8:05 PM on January 23 [1 favorite]


Hey Nelson, you've got a rabbit in your ear!
What?
I said, Nelson, you've got a RABBIT in your ear!
Say WHAT?
I said... NELSON! YOU'VE GOT A RABBIT IN YOUR EAR!
SORRY, I CAN'T HEAR YOU! I've got a RABBIT in my ear!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:16 PM on January 23 [3 favorites]


Relevant, prescient, and surprisingly not from the Onion: Men Defend Historic Mandela Site ... From Rabbits
posted by Panjandrum at 8:23 PM on January 23


we're everywhere.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 8:52 PM on January 23 [7 favorites]


"I think that's pretty shitty of them. Making sure it's attributed to you properly is fine, but I've always found involving your signature in the content of the work tacky."

You mean, as tacky as Da Vinci, Goya, Renoir, Monet, Picasso, and Rodin were? Along with nearly every professional artist in the modern world?


Tacky is tacky. In my opinion, it harms the art.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 8:59 PM on January 23


Is there any precedent for the sculptors using this motif as a signature? If there is, then fine, I would be behind it staying. It's unobtrusive and part of what you get when you hire these sculptors.

If not, then I'm not sure I believe them. You don't just cook up a signature like that, and in that case it's either: a; just daftness, which is moderately disrespectful, should be removed and the scupltors frowned at for a bit, or b; is some as-yet-unknown symbolic allusion which could be either positive or negative. I'm not buying into the 'haste' explanation at all, it really clangs.
posted by aesop at 5:59 AM on January 24


I have no issue with this, and I think these bureaucrats should calm down and move on to something more important. Twenty years from now this will be seen as a feature, not a bug.
posted by sid at 6:31 AM on January 24 [2 favorites]


Twenty years from now this will be seen as a feature, not a bug.

Heck, I see it as a feature now.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:54 AM on January 24 [8 favorites]


Twenty years from now this will be seen as a feature, not a bug.

I think Bugs was only in shorts, not features.
posted by yoink at 8:28 AM on January 24 [3 favorites]


Space Jam is an old movie. Think on that.
posted by planetesimal at 8:39 AM on January 24


Space Jam is an old movie. Think on that.

If you were taken to see Space Jam as a newborn on the day it opened, you miss out on voting this year by a couple of weeks. Also you have strange parents.
posted by yoink at 8:46 AM on January 24 [2 favorites]


Wut the heck's 'Space Jam'?
 
posted by Herodios at 9:08 AM on January 24


Wut the heck's 'Space Jam'?

It was developed by NASA in the 1960s for astronauts to spread on their Space Toast. Tastes delicious with Tang.
posted by yoink at 9:11 AM on January 24


I think if it'd been developed in the 1960s, I'd have heard of it.

That's prolly the actual problem here.


Tang was vile, by the way.
posted by Herodios at 9:45 AM on January 24


srboisvert: "Has anybody checked if Mandala had a tiny rabbit in his ear IRL?"

Too late for that NOW.
posted by IAmBroom at 2:54 PM on January 24


Wut the heck's 'Space Jam'?

You could just check out its slammin' WebSite, maintained faithfully since the day it went up to hype the upcoming release.

Depression alert: the cast bios page will point out the Michael Jordan is in his fifties now.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 4:09 PM on January 24 [2 favorites]


I don't think Mandela would have minded. He never took himself very seriously, and I doubt he would want to be soberly remembered.

I could see how people would be bothered by it. Mandela had a definite and direct impact on my life and I deeply mourned his death, and the way he is remembered matters to me.

And if a little rabbit in the ear of one sculpture of him is enough to ruin his memory, then we're doing it wrong.
posted by guster4lovers at 3:25 PM on January 25 [3 favorites]


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