At least 147,600 people have signed a petition accusing Disney of ‘colonialism and robbery’ for trademarking the Swahili phrase ‘Hakuna Matata’.
Disney have been accused of cultural appropriation regarding their trademark over ‘Hakuna Matata’, a Swahili phrase made famous by the film The Lion King.
The petition led by by Zimbabwean activist Shelton Mpala compares the patent to ‘robbery’ and ‘colonialism’ has now caused a stir online with most social media users agreeing with Mpala and urging the American film production powerhouse to drop the trademark.
Mpala argues that a culture’s language cannot and should not be able to be owned by corporations.
Calling it a ‘robbery’ of Swahili culture, Mpala launched the Change.org petition hoping to bring momentum back to the debate.
On the petition’s page, Mpala wrote: ‘I liken this to colonialism and robbery, the appropriation of something you have no right over.
‘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.”
‘Disney can’t be allowed to trademark something that it didn’t invent.’
Mpala has revived the historic debate ahead of Disney’s live-action remake of the animated classic, coming out on July 19, next year .
So far, the petition has amassed 147,602 signatures, and Mpala has now put the goal to 150,000.
Though Disney originally filed for the trademark in 1994 – and later approved in 2003 – the row resurfaced ahead of the live-action remake of the beloved musical animation, coming July next year.
Since it’s release, The Lion King film has generated more than $1 billion in revenue for Disney, and even became the highest grossing theater show in 2014, overtaking The Phantom of the Opera by amassing a gross value of $6.2 billion in sales.
The live action remake, starring Beyonce and directed by John Favreu, will be released worldwide on July 19, 2019.
“Hakuna matata” is a Swahili language phrase from East Africa; translate, it means “no trouble”. The word “hakuna” means “there is not here” while “matata” means “problems”.
Hakuna Matata has been used by most Kiswahili-speaking countries suchs as Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Mozambique, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The phrase is also the title of a song released in 1984 by Kenyan band ‘Them Mushrooms’ that is still reportedly used to welcome tourists into the country at major hotels today.