Petition claims Disney's hakuna matata trademark 'exploits Africa'

19 December 2018 - 11:51 By Odwa Mjo
Walt Disney's ownership of the Swahili phrase hakuna matata is another example of the exploitation of Africa, says Zimbabwean Shelton Mpala, who has already collected 50,000 signatures on a petition to have the trademark revoked.
Walt Disney's ownership of the Swahili phrase hakuna matata is another example of the exploitation of Africa, says Zimbabwean Shelton Mpala, who has already collected 50,000 signatures on a petition to have the trademark revoked.
Image: Fred Prouser

A petition has been established to remove Walt Disney's trademark of the popular phrase "hakuna matata" used in The Lion King.

The petition, launched on Change.org, has already collected more than 50,000 signatures. Its next target is 75,000.

The phrase famously means "no worries' or "no problems" in Swahili, a language that is spoken widely in East Africa - including in Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi, Mozambique and the DRC.

According to Justia Trademarks, Walt Disney first trademarked the phrase in 1994, which is the same year that the original animated movie was released. A remake of The Lion King is due to hit big screens in July 2019.

The petition was initiated by Zimbabwean Shelton Mpala, who told the BBC that while he is not a Swahili speaker, he believes that the trademark is just another example of the exploitation of Africa. 

"Disney can't be allowed to trademark something that it didn't invent," urges Mpala in the petition.

The petition has sparked plenty of conversation on  Twitter. Many have condemned Disney's actions, while others said they would use the phrase as they pleased - and even print it on T-shirts - regardless of any trademark.


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