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.

[via BBC, opening image via Lion King Community]

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