Disney is facing backlash over its trademark of the Swahili phrase “hakuna matata.” Zimbabwean activist Shelton Mpala started an online petition calling on Disney to let go of its trademark of the phrase, which translates to “no problems” or “no worries.”
“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 andis an insult not only the spirit of the Swahili people but also, Africa as a whole,” Mpala wrote in the Change.org petition, which has more than 130,000 signatures.
Mpala describes the Disney trademark as an “assault on the Swahili people and Africa as a whole.”
Disney applied for the trademark in 1994, to coincide with the hit song of the same name from "The Lion King."
“Disney’s registration for ‘Hakuna Matata’ T-shirts, which was filed in 1994, has never and will not prevent individuals from using the phrase,” the company said in a statement.
“It is unfortunate that there has been a lot of pilferage of African culture over the years, through the use of intellectual property rights,” wrote Cathy Mputhia. “This means that heritage that ought to belong to a certain group of people is instead pilfered using legal methods, whereby third parties end up being awarded sole rights.”