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The phrase "Hakuna Matata" is from the Swahili language and when translated into English, it means "no problem" or "no worries." It is a phrase spoken across East Africa. Disney used it in its film “The Lion King” and trademarked it for its merchandise. Since the phrase is not English, an acknowledgment would have been in order. Lions belong to Africa and using an African phrase should not have raised any eyebrows but getting a patent on it was, in the opinion of many angry African people.

BBC reports Shelton Mpala has organized a petition and hopes to persuade Disney to abandon its "Hakuna Matata" trademark. The petition has accused the movie house of “colonialism and robbery” and has been able to gain support by attracting more than 30,000 signatures.

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It is not ethical

Shelton Mpala does not speak Swahili but feels Disney’s getting a trademark for "Hakuna Matata" is an example of exploitation of the culture of another country. He is hopeful that he can convince Disney to shelve this plan. There is local support for him because the media in Kenya have also accused the US movie house of “stealing from Kenyan culture by claiming ownership of the phrase.”

The social media is also alive to this issue and there are people who perceive this as a missed opportunity for African companies.

Incidentally, The Mushrooms, a Kenyan band, had popularized the song "Hakuna Matata" long before Disney released “The Lion King.” Hence, Disney cannot claim the phrase to be original content.

Violation of cultural copyright

According to America CGTN, the expression “Hakuna Matata” is not only a phrase used in parts of East Africa but was made into a Swahili song “Jambo Bwana” in 1982 by Kenyan group, The Mushrooms. Boney M also made its versions in the 1980s, and the song is popular in hotel bands in the region.

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The legal opinion is that it is not easy to define cultural assets legally. South Africa had faced a similar situation in 2014 when it prevented an attempt by France to trademark the name Rooibos. This is the name of one of its products namely, a red bush tea grown only here.

The Lion King” in a new-look will be in cinemas around the world in 2019 and the spotlight is on the pair of words “Hakuna Matata” which means “no worries.” It is turning out to be worrisome because of the violation of cultural copyright.

Disney is under pressure to honor the sentiments of the people and review the decision of trademarking/patenting something that belongs to another country.