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Swahili Speakers Debate Disney's Trademark of 'Hakuna Matata' For T-Shirts

The song title from the film The Lion King has been trademarked by Disney since 2003. In recent weeks, Africa media has launched a discussion on whether that's cultural appropriation.
"The Lion King," released in 1994 and one of the top grossing U.S. films of all time, is celebrated at a Disney fan event in Anaheim, Calif. Source: Image Group LA/Disney via Getty Images

A years-old Disney trademark on the use of the phrase "Hakuna Matata" on T-shirts has stirred up a new debate among Swahili speakers about cultural appropriation.

The words mean "no worries" in Swahili, a language spoken in countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. Estimates for the number of speakers vary widely, from 60 to 150 million.

"Hakuna Matata" is the title of a song from the 1994 Disney film . Disney applied to register the, the trademark was approved for registration in 2003 and is still active — meaning that Disney can sue companies that use the words on a shirt if it looks like a knockoff.

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