More than 50,000 people, largely East Africans, have signed a petition accusing Disney of ‘colonialism and robbery’ for trademarking a Swahili phrase used in the Lion King film.
The phrase Hakuna Matata (which means “no worries” or “no problem”) has been associated with the Lion King franchise since 1994 when the Lion King animation first debuted, although it was adapted from the Swahili language- spoken mainly within East Africa.
And after its live-action remake, scheduled for release in 2019, brought the franchise again under the radar, a row has erupted over a catchphrase which Disney first applied to trademark some 24 years ago. This year, 2018, Disney successfully trademarked the phrase in the USA ahead of the release of the new Lion King trailer.
A Zimbabwean man, Shelton Mpala, likened the move to modern and intellectual colonialism, and organized the petition on Change.org to compel Disney to renounce its Hakuna Matata trademark.
Several Swahili speakers willingly endorsed the petition after being left bemused and utterly shocked. Mr. Mpala, who himself doesn’t speak the language believes that the initiative lies with him as an African to be interested in the preservation and protection of all aspects of African culture and language against all forms of exploitation.
Disney, the world’s largest independent media conglomerate, has opted to remain silent on the matter.
Only weeks ago after the release of the Lion King trailer, the entertainment company was praised for voice casting high-profile black entertainers, Childish Gambino and Beyoncé, as the film’s two leading characters.