'Lion King': Petition Calling on Disney to Drop 'Hakuna Matata' Patent Rapidly Gains Support
Walt Disney Pictures

The company is accused of cultural appropriation for trademarking the Swahili phrase, which means 'no worries' and was made popular by the 1994 animated movie.

AceShowbiz - "Hakuna Matata", which means "no problem" or "no worries," has brought problem for Disney. The company has been accused of cultural appropriation for trademarking the Swahili phrase, which was made popular by the 1994 film "The Lion King".

Disney first applied to trademark the catchphrase in 1994, the same year the animated movie was released. The patent was approved in 2003. Due to the movie's widespread acclaims, the iconic phrase has become popular worldwide. The phrase is once again brought into attention as Disney is going to release a live-action remake "The Lion King (2019)".

Shelton Mpala, an activist from Zimbabwe, has launched an online petition on Change.org, calling on Disney to drop the patent. " 'Hakuna matata' is a Swahili language phrase from East Africa," reads the petition. "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."

Likening the trademarking to "colonialism" and "robbery," Mpala argues that Disney or other companies "can't be allowed to trademark languages, terms or phrases they didn't invent."

"A lot of Swahili speakers have been utterly shocked, they had no idea this was happening," Mpala told the BBC. While he's not a Swahili speaker, he said, "Growing up in Zimbabwe, I always had an understanding that a culture's language was its richness." He further argued that this is an example of Africa being "exploited in some shape, fashion or form."

Some Twitter users have weighed in on the issue. "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!" one wrote.

Another agreed, adding, "How can they trade mark a phrase that has been used as part of language."

Someone else, however, thinks "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."

The petition has quickly gained support. After reaching its initial goal of 50,000 signatures, it now increases its goal to 75,000.

Disney has not commented on the petition.

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