“Hakuna Matata”. Timon and Pumba can take it easy enjoying of the larvae. Their philosophy is, “without any concern”. Mickey, himself, has anything to worry about. His company, Disney, is accused of cultural appropriation by several african media. The Nairobi News , among others, accuses the us company of using the replica of the suricate and a warthog in the Lion King to create derivative products.
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However, the phrase was not invented for the film. It comes from the kiswahili, the most spoken language of eastern Africa, used in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Congo by some 150 million speakers! In this idiom, “Hakuna Matata” means “no problem”. And the problem, precisely, is that Disney has registered that phrase as a trademark, granting to him the exclusive on the phrase. Results: cups, posters, t-shirts, wristbands, on which the expression is flooding the market.
Several african personalities are mounted to the niche, deploring the misuse. Cathy Mputhia, a journalist for the newspaper of kenya, the Business Daily , published an article in which she denounces the looting of the african culture and called on them to “protect regional heritage” of East Africa. For Ngugi Wa thiong’o, kenyan author and professor at the university of California, the use of the phrase by the firm, to the big ears is absurd. “It would be like placing the phrase “how’s it going” where “it’s raining cats and dogs”, he says to Slate.fr. This is a phrase common that we use every day. No company can possess.”
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The controversy has provoked strong reactions on social networks. A user zimbabwean by the name of Shelton Mpala has even launched a petition on the platform foreign Exchange calling for the withdrawal of the trademark. “Disney does not have the right to file something that he has not invented”, can we read on the page, which had nearly 53,000 signatures Wednesday afternoon.
“Many people swahili were shocked, they had no idea what was going on, said the instigator of the petition to the BBC. Having grown up in Zimbabwe, I have always understood that the language of a culture was its wealth.” This is a matter which we should continue to hear about by the release of the film The Lion King live-action the next summer.