A petition opposing Disney’s trademark of the famous phrase “Hakuna Matata” has garnered over 52,000 signatures.
The Swahili phrase is the title of the hit song from Disney’s 1994 The Lion King animation.
In English, “Hakuna Matata” means no worries or no troubles. “Hakuna” means “there is not here” and “matata” translates to “problems.”
Disney applied for its trademark back in 1994 and gained approval in 2003.
Zimbabwean activist Shelton Mpala, however, likens the trademark “to colonialism and robbery,” adding that it is “the appropriation of something you have no right over.”
In the petition initiated by Mpala, the activist explains, “Imagine, ‘If we were to go that route, then we owe the British royalties for everyone who speaks English, or France for when we speak French. Join us and say NO to DISNEY or any corporations/individuals looking to trademark languages, terms or phrases they didn’t invent.”
“Hakuna Matata has been used by most Kiswahili-speaking countries such as Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Mozambique, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Disney can’t be allowed to trademark something that it didn’t invent.”
Mpala told the BBC that many Swahili speakers are surprised by the trademark and had no idea this was happening. Though Mpala doesn’t speak the language, he believes that the trademark is a form of African culture being “exploited.”
Kenyan newspapers have also voiced out their disappointment with Disney for stealing Kenyan culture to claim ownership of “Hakuna Matata.” It seems that the current debate had initiated from an article that surfaced on Business Daily Africa.
While many people are familiar with the Hakuna Matata song from The Lion King, Kenyan band The Mushrooms released a track with the same title a decade before Disney’s version debuted.
Hopefully the controversy clears up before the live-action Lion King movie drops on 19 July 2019.
this is blatant robbery that should not be allowed to stand. you don’t have to speak the language to know that this is an egregious theft, one that recalls the way that africa’s precious treasures were looted. please sign this petition!
— dele jegede (@iji_araba) December 17, 2018
How can they trade mark a phrase that has been used as part of language
— flo agwu (@floagwu) December 17, 2018
It’s not even colonial, it’s a lack of self assertion and belief in our own as a people. Disney saw an opportunity we didn’t.
— Bonaventure MUTALE 🇿🇲 (@BonaventureBVM) December 17, 2018
Hey everyone, pls RT this petition for @DisneyStudios to be barred from trademarking #HakunaMatata. It’s a Swahili phrase that we’ve used since time immemorial but white people still be trying to steal even after our independence. #Shame! pic.twitter.com/kSrUm360BV
— Mwikali Mutune (@Mwikali_Mutune) December 10, 2018
— Peter Mwas🇰🇪🐄🐖🐱🐕🐶🐆🐔🐓🐤 (@p_mwas) December 19, 2018
#Hakunamatata is in kenyan song by the mushroom played in 1984 and when did lion king air 1994 ten years gap and now it’s Disney word that’s crap
— kelvin njoroge (@kelvinn652) December 18, 2018
[via BBC, opening image via Lion King Community]
Kenyans! Wake Up! First was “Kikoi”, now “Hakuna Matata”, STOP this intellectual robbery of our culture and heritage! Sign a petition to protest @Disney’s trademarking of the kiSwahili phrase #HakunaMatata https://t.co/mm8FrIs7wg
— mapinduzi (@MaasaiNation) December 17, 2018