Official Statement by Mantse Aryeequaye, creator, Chale Wote Street Art Festival.
This statement is in response to recent attacks on my person and the organisation I founded, Chale Wote Street Art Festival. I am compelled to issue this statement now because I do not want my silence so far to be misconstrued. I have already reported the matter to the Ghana Police who claim to be investigating, and I have recently instructed my lawyers to sue certain individuals for defamation and demand that they prove their accusations or pay for the damage done my organisation and me. I will pursue this matter to the end and recover my hard-won reputation.
For the record, I wish to state before going further that I Mantse Aryeequaye, have not abused ANY woman nor engaged in the things I am being accused of by named and unnamed persons. I deny categorically and challenge any and everyone who is making these allegations to come forward and prove them. I will stand ready to meet the person at any forum to make their case against me, and if I am found guilty, I promise to pay the penalties thereof.
My lawyers and I have agreed that regardless of how strongly we feel, we will not do anything to pester, badger, hound or hassle anyone claiming to be a victim or ‘survivor’. We will however take all steps to clear my name and prove that all allegations against me are unfounded, untrue and fuelled by malice.
Given the intent of these persons to damage my person and organisation and bring to nought all the hard work I have done to put Chale Wote on the international cultural map, I am resolved to make all detractors pay for their actions and bear full responsibility for everything they have done, to that end I have given my lawyers firm instructions to be unrelenting.
I remember that cold September morning in Johannesburg in 2018, I had been invited to speak at a cultural conference. A few encounters with a number of delegates towards the end of the conference left me rather curious. It wasn’t until much later that night as I was about to go to bed that I noticed an email from a former associate. The email had a link to an anonymous blog post by one ‘Targaryen Tyrion’; a fictional character from the HBO TV series Game of Thrones. Someone or people hiding behind an alias had posted fiction of how my last relationship supposedly ended as a result of violence. Long paragraphs of untruths and false allegations against me fed into a massive online hate-campaign that ruined professional relationships I cultivated over the years. It’s sad that people in supposed circles of critical thought would believe an anonymous post making false claims about my character without evidence or proof.
Suddenly all the weird encounters at the conference started making sense; the awkward smiles, forced conversations and passive aggression all connected. This salacious blog was apparently circulated at the conference while I was presenting my work, making me an abhorrent caricature to the listeners and organisers who once respected me enough to invite me as a speaker, such has been the effect of this nefarious campaign. There were subsequent posts that continued these malicious attacks with one openly declaring war on me. A lot of the initial conversations around these anonymous posts were on Facebook. Artists, academics and acquaintances turned ‘agents of accountability’, spun it into a grotesque spectacle that portrayed me as an abuser. I returned to Ghana and filed a report with the cyber crime unit of the Ghana Police Service and I have since been waiting patiently for a conclusive report.
I would quietly suffer what is just consequence if indeed I perpetrated these acts against anyone, especially someone I was in a relationship with, but no one should go through what I am being put through on falsehoods and unfounded lies, and I owe it to myself and what I have built so far to fight back.
This statement is notice to the people who should know better but are leading a false accusation campaign against me in the name of speaking against violence while perpetuating the same violence against me. Worst still if they are so sure why do they hide behind aliases?
The only direct accusation I have seen was from a blog purporting to be Dr. Neely, to the point that I physically, emotionally, and psychologically tortured her at some point in 2017, leading amongst other things to her painful and final departure from Ghana. The real reasons that led to Dr. Sionne Neely and I going our separate ways had nothing to do with violence. I categorically state that none of the accusations are true. I challenge the writer to please… please provide any proof she may have, I would on my part show through my lawyers that nothing of the sort happened.
Dr. Neely and I had a relationship like most people, sweet at times and difficult at other times, we were not married and after a while we decided to end things, even after that decision, we remained civil. Maybe we would have fought through our problems if things had not been complicated by the demise of Dr Neely’s father in February 2018, necessitating her departure to the US, and the later demise of my mother in April of 2018, which broke many things in me. We never repaired the relationship, even though we maintained civil interactions.
That said, I see no reason why the ending of a relationship should create the situation we are in now.
Sionne and I virtually ended our relationship in December of 2017, even before she departed. She retained her keys to the apartment we shared, we became more like housemates who lived in the apartment at different times of the day, she came and went as she pleased even after our separation until the untimely death of her father. Sionne left Ghana in mid-February 2018 to attend her late father’s funeral.
It would be great to see evidence of these threats I’m supposed to have sent her for 6 months to force her resignation on June 1st 2018. I happen to have records of our communication and I’m having a hard time locating said threats.
The apartment units we shared had other occupants; it also has 24-hour security. About 100 meters west of where we lived is a Police Station. Sionne also worked for a women’s rights organisation for a significant part of our relationship and it is absolutely preposterous to think that she endured this kind of torture while organising against it with her ‘sisters in arms’.
I am quite sure there would have been first hand witnesses to the things I am accused of and indeed a report would have been made to the police by Sionne or her ‘sisters in arms’ who clearly do not lack the confidence to speak out against such violence, nor any motivation to do so if indeed it happened, and would not wait so long to start a faceless smear campaign.
I have reported the matter to the Police, who have tried to question some of the persons involved. Instead of taking the opportunity to tell the police everything that happened, my accusers are rather declaring intimidation at the hands of the police and casting more unfounded and unevidenced allegations at my person, while STILL refusing to go to ANY police station to make these statements official (as they insist I am guilty and need to be punished), they choose to employ a smear campaign rather.
Amidst all of this, Chale Wote has also become a target of brutal cyber attacks. This also reveals the true nature of an insidious online campaign, which is not seeking truth nor justice but destruction.
Chale Wote had over 100,000 visitors this year and spawned art and commercial activities that spread over a three-mile radius. The bulk of the festival’s constituents aren’t from privileged communities in Accra. People who show up to vend at the festival are predominantly women from economically marginalised spaces and for now their interaction with Chale Wote is through trade, which allows them to make some money. There are the thousands of young people and artists whose hopes and dreams are actualized through their participation in the festival. Then there are the thousands from home and abroad who come around and enjoy the art explosion, ebullient, colourful and varied expressions that happen over the period, there is nothing like Chale Wote Street Art Festival, which is why it has gained international attention.
In the last 17 years I have spent most of my life building what is now one of the most influential festivals in Africa. I have poured my blood into it together with the selfless support of comrades and my deceased mother.
There were no guarantees of success, but we ploughed on, risking everything. 9 editions later, we have punched above our weight and turned a small festival in one of Ghana’s most economically marginalised communities into a global phenomenon. Chale Wote is actually bringing the people together; in ways we never imagined when we set out 2010. We built this movement on love and camaraderie. We have never entertained violence and we have never instigated this kind of cyber-terror against anyone, ever.
In the last year, in a bid to destroy the success of my work and the resurgence of African culture, Chale Wote and I have been targeted by an elaborate psychological operations (Psy-Ops) project orchestrated by non-state agents operating within the Ghanaian cultural space. I didn’t want to believe that some people would resist the cultural resurgence of others, but the happenings tell a tale I can’t ignore.
These attacks against Chale Wote and my character have slowly escalated over the years. In 2017, a few weeks before the festival, a message was circulated anonymously on social media about an impending terrorist attack during the festival. Social media platforms were created with my name encouraging people not to show up. We had to have security meetings about it because at some point some of our partners were worried. The warnings were fake, but clearly they complicated things for everyone and had a dampening effect.
A year later faceless cowards in very similar fashion weaponised my painful separation from Sionne Neely into a campaign of defamation and riding on that attacked Chale Wote, which clearly is unwarranted, I fail to see how Chale Wote, which has moved beyond a local festival to an international stage, should be a target. I have had instances and incidents which make me believe there is a wider conspiracy at play, but I have chosen restraint and decided to pursue this matter through the courts of law instead of triggering my own campaign in reaction.
To Sionne; My relationship with you lasted 9 years, there’s a lot to unpack there, I have been silent and composed out of respect for what should remain between two people, I am forced to speak up because I have been forced to defend myself. Better if you step up and declare that the lies are lies, otherwise I would be forced to lay out everything I need in my own defence.
I promise you I would subject myself to any interrogation you require, if I did anything against you as is being said, I urge you to report it to the appropriate authorities and have me answer for it. I have my story to tell and it will be told.
May you never have to go through what you have put me through. May you never be judged without evidence like this. May your friends never turn on you as you have caused mine to do, and may your safe spaces and communities never reject you.
To all who have summarily judged me on hearing just one side of this story, and shared the accusations and decided that I am guilty and called for war against my work and me, I will simply say this, there are three sides to every story, her side, my side, and the truth. The one who is right, is the one whose version is closest to the truth.
I insist to all accusers that we all subject ourselves to the proper process to determine what the truth is, then you may judge. I am confident that any objective investigation into these matters would find that I am completely innocent and the target of people who wish to tarnish my image and take over what I have toiled for. Indeed if they just wanted justice for things I have supposedly done, why attack the organisation we built? I can go, but Chale Wote should live, it is bigger than Mantse Aryeequaye and I sure hope it outlives me.
In the coming weeks, this matter would be the subject of a lawsuit; I will leave the rest to my Lawyers as I have been advised to do.