Hector Aristizábal, ImaginAction’s founder and artistic director, 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 the US-supported military. In 1989, violence and death threats forced him to leave his homeland. In exile, Hector struggled to overcome his rage and desire for vengeance and to channel these energies instead into constructive social action.
Since arriving in the US, he has won acclaim and awards as an artist and also received a second Masters degree, in Marriage and Family Therapy from Pacific Oaks College, leading him to combine his training in psychology and the arts with lessons gained from life experience in his therapeutic work with torture and trauma survivors, incarcerated youth, immigrant families, and people affected by HIV/AIDS. As an activist, he uses theatrical performance as part of the movement to end torture and to change US policy in Latin America.
He founded ImaginAction to help people tap the transformative power of theatre in programs throughout the US, Latin America, Europe and around the world, as far afield as Afghanistan, India, and Palestine, for community building and reconciliation, strategizing, and individual healing and liberation. 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 for all people.
He has served on the core council of the Colombia Peace Project-LA and on the boards of the Program for Torture Victims and of Pedagogy and Theatre of the Oppressed, a global forum for social justice based on the ideas of Paulo Freire and Augusto Boal.
Hector was recently honored with the prestigious Otto René Castillo Award for Political Theatre. The Otto Awards were established in 1998 to recognize and support the ongoing development of political theatre internationally. The Awards Committee, composed of past recipients, recommends a slate of honorees each year; Hector’s work was selected for recognition on May 20, 2012.
He is co-author of The Blessing Next to the Wound: A Story of Art, Activism, and Transformation.