More than 70,000 people have signed a petition urging Disney to drop its trademark of the Swahili phrase “hakuna matata,” as it prepares to release its remake of The Lion King.
The phrase featured in the original 1994 film and was the title of the song, by Sir Elton John and Sir Tim Rice, from the movie.
The row has erupted months before the new film, with Beyonce and Chiwetel Ejiofor among the voice cast, opens in cinemas.
Disney first applied to trademark the phrase in 1994 and it was later registered for clothing.
The petition states:
“‘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 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.”
“While we respect Disney as an entertainment institution responsible for creating many of our childhood memories, the decision to trademark ‘hakuna matata’ is predicated purely on greed and is an insult not only the spirit of the Swahili people but also, Africa as a whole.”
It is understood that the trademark is intended to prevent others from creating products that could be misrepresented as relating to The Lion King, and does not prevent others from using the term in other contexts.
Reactions to the petition were mixed.
Some agreed that Disney shouldn’t maintain copyright over a phrase that it didn’t invent.
Hakuna Matata is a Swahili language phrase from Central East Africa and belongs to the people who speak it and not @Disney So they have no right to stick a trademark on it.
— Chloe (@Loopylouspurs) December 19, 2018
If anyone should trademark ‘Hakuna Matata’ it should be we East Africans
— Kairu_KamauK (@kairu_kamauk) December 18, 2018
I don’t understand how Disney were allowed to trademark Hakuna Matata since it was already part of the African language and many people use it before Disney movie came out. It is like if I tried to trademark the word ‘the’, would this be allowed ??? Crazy 👎
— Sai Ming Wong (@saiwong) December 20, 2018
Everyone call out @Disney & @RobertIger !!! Tell them that they cannot trademark your culture!! They tried to trademark “dia de los muertos” and now they’re trying to trademark “hakuna matata!” That is some racist bullshit!!
— Steven Lopez (@Steven_G_Lopez) December 19, 2018
Well, they didn’t coin the phrase. That’s standard Swahili. Njoo utuulize hapa Kenya!
— Peter Kenneth Munene (@codesmithx) December 19, 2018
Does @Disney want to patent the people living in East Africa too who speak Kiswahili?
Msitukosee heshima tafadhali!
— Stesh Gee (@stesh_g) December 19, 2018
Disney cannot own a phrase going way back. Absurd!
— OnseySeyon (@OnseySeyon) December 19, 2018
Yes. I have signed the petition as a proud, fluent Kiswahili speaker. No one should trademark our phrases. Let them trademark the ‘Hasta La Vistas’ of this world but not Hakuna Matata.
— David West (@arsenalcode) December 19, 2018
That’s like trademarking “Good Morning.” Such jokers, thieves. The same folks who come to Africa and assume whoever exists here is a lesser human.
— ambula cecil (@CecilAmbula) December 18, 2018
Others reverted to mundane cries of “political correctness” in response to the petition, despite many of those signing being African and Kiswahili speakers.
too much political correctness today
— Tyko (@TykoMusic) December 19, 2018
What a load of CRAP. What’s going on with these people? Please stop! 🤦🏻♀️
— Silvia Correa🇺🇸🇧🇷 (@Silvicorrea) December 18, 2018
I am sick and tired of this liberal cultural appropriation BS! Btw, the same people complaining about “cultural appropriation:” you’ve been doing it, too. Every culture has taken from another since the beginning of mankind. Grow a goddamn spine already.
— Marin (Manny) Rodriguez III (@MannyMexi) December 18, 2018
Nevertheless, the signatures keep coming.