When it comes to memes, pineapple is the new orange, at least in Madagascar.
Social media in Madagascar has become quite pineapple-flavored over the past few days. Why the sudden fervor for the spiky fruit? Here is a bit of context on the current social situation on the Red Island.
Madagascar came up as the world's poorest country in one of the poverty indices published by the World Bank (and reported by media outlets such as Radio France Internationale). The criticism of the economic status of the country did not sit well with the president of Madagascar. He challenged observers, local media and citizens to “provide evidence that the country was getting poorer.”
— Touti Rakotonirina (@strakotonirina) May 28, 2016
Is this graph here not enough evidence Mr President ? #Madagascar #WASH
Koolsaina, a Malagasy community blog, posted the following photo on its website:
Following that first tense exchange between the president and Malagasy netizens, another Malagasy community website, Tananews, posted a photo of First Lady Voahangy Rajaonarimampianina wearing a a green dress with a pineapple motif on the front:
Tananews added a link and a comment with a hint of sarcasm that said, “Indeed, not everyone is poor in Madagascar.” The link showed that the dress was probably designed by high-end clothing brand Dolce & Gabana that sold for US $7,745 on the website of department store Nieman Marcus (it is unclear whether that is the actually cost of the dress that the first lady was wearing).
The outrage was swift on the Malagasy web. A flurry of memes with the hashtag #mananasy (pineapple) appeared within days on various Malagasy websites and social media. Here are a few memes that were widely shared:
Tragically, all the jokes about pineapple came a few days after tragedy struck the country's independence day ceremony. A grenade exploded into the crowd watching the military parade in the national stadium, killing three people and injuring 91. Here is a video of the aftermath:
The whole conversation on “Pineapple-Gate” comes at a time when a major bill on freedom of speech and ethics online is being prepared by Malagasy authorities. The early returns from insiders on how the bill will shape up hint that it will severely restrict free expression online and will include heavy fines for any materials deemed to be libel. The bill should be submitted to the parliament for approval in the coming weeks.