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Petition urges Disney to drop ‘Hakuna Matata’ trademark

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A petition by a Zimbabwean-Canadian activist Shelton Mpala wants the US company Walt Disney drop its trademark claim on the Swahili phrase “Hakuna Matata” FILE PHOTO |  

A petition by a Zimbabwean-Canadian activist Shelton Mpala wants the US company Walt Disney drop its trademark claim on the Swahili phrase “Hakuna Matata”

The petition has already attracted more than 90 per cent of the targeted 50,000 signatures.

The push for the US company to relinquish the trademark comes amid social media protests, with both speakers and non-speakers of the Swahili language accusing the entertainment company of “robbing” words it did not invent.

The petition has already attracted over 47,100 signatures, with many petitioners indicating that the trademarked words existed even before Disney produced its popular film ‘The Lion King’ in 1994.

“Say no to Disney, stop the trademarking of African languages,” reads the poster popularising the petition.

“Disney has trademarked the Swahili phrase “Hakuna Matata.” Join us and say NO to DISNEY or any corporations/individuals looking to trademark languages, terms or phrases they didn’t invent.

“Hakuna matata” is a Swahili language phrase meaning “no trouble” or “no problem”.

“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,” the petition reads.

“Sign this petition and get Disney to remove the trademark on Hakuna Matata. Let’s get to 50,000,” it says.

People from various places in and out of Africa have expressed displeasure with the company’s move over the past few days, others terming it a way of ‘neo-colonialism’ and calling on it to reverse it.

“This is wrong on so many levels. People across the Swahili coast of East Africa have been saying “hakuna matata” for years before ‘Lion King’ came along.

“Shelton Mpala is right – it is colonialism and robbery. It’s also embarrassing. Seriously @Disney? This is 2018. #hakunamatata,” said Elizabeth Bananuka on twitter.

Native speakers of the Swahili language also faulted the company’s move.

“Some people may have heard #HakunaMatata for the first time in lion king but for me, it’s my language. So if I decide to write ‘hakuna matata’ on any of my …. You really can’t stop me. Nope. Doesn’t make sense to trade mark a word that wasn’t yours in the first place,” stated Gath.Sig.

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