Hector Aristizábal was born and raised in Medellín, Colombia when it was the most dangerous city in the world. One of his brothers was seduced by the power of crack cocaine and another by the promises of revolutionary armed struggle. Hector’s path was different. He worked his way out of poverty to become a theatre artist and pioneering psychologist with a Masters degree from Antioquia University, then survived civil war, arrest and torture at the hands of US-supported military. In 1989, violence and death threats forced him from his homeland. In exile, Hector struggled to overcome his rage and desire for vengeance and to channel these energies instead into constructive social action.
Hector founded the traveling theatre arts organization ImaginAction to bring theatre to diverse communities throughout the world—as far afield as Latin America, Europe, Afghanistan, India, China and Palestine. His work is influenced by Theatre of the Oppressed, psychodrama, traditional storytelling, mask making, drumming, improvisational drama and creative ritual. Through experiential workshops, theater performances and other creative events, ImaginAction invites participants to explore embodied knowledge, challenge the inevitability of violence, and use their imaginations for a more just and joyous life.
“Art is the modern expression of ritual,” he says. “People used to heal the community this way, through ritual. Therapy is about the personal, but art touches the communal story.”
Hector uses theatrical performances, like his solo show Nightwind, as part of the movement to end torture and change U.S. policy in Latin America. Using little more than balloons, a plastic bottle and his body, Hector recounts the story of his capture and torture in Colombia. The show is intimate, horrifying, and humorous in turn. After each performance, Hector leads the audience through a series of dynamic meditation and movement exercises designed to engage participants in confronting the topic of torture.