Colombian anti-torture activist and psychotherapist to visit Londonderry

A PSYCHOTHERAPIST, artist and activist who survived civil war, arrest and torture in Colombia will bring the transformative power of theatre to the Playhouse in Londonderry at the end of this month.

Colombian actor and choreographer Hector Aristizbal will undertake a one-month residency with the Playhouse International Culture Arts Network, ICAN.

This is a three year project which has been part-financed by the European Union's Regional Development fund through EU Programme for Peace and Reconciliation (Peace III) managed through Special EU Programmes Body.

During this time, Hector will work with the community of Greater Shantallow bringing new theatre skills and empowering the community to use the arts to examine local issues.

Hector spent fifteen years utilizing Theatre of the Oppressed techniques and theatrical performance as part of the movement to end torture.

He is founder of Imaginaction an improvisational laboratory which uses performing arts for community healing and social justice.

He grew up in Medellin, 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 however worked his way out of poverty to become a theatre artist and pioneering psychologist.

In 1989, violence and death threats forced him into exile, when Hector became interested in constructive social action.

He combined 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.

He uses his work 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.

Hector also serves 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.

During his stay in the North West he will deliver a masterclass, experimental workshops, theatre performances and other creative events.

As part of this programme we are offering a free masterclass entitled "Tools of ImaginAction" which offers a laboratory to learn through experience the use of several techniques and philosophies, e.g. Theatre of the Oppressed, Playback Theatre and storytelling. This masterclass is open to all including those interested in theatre, community work, facilitation, youth work as well as health workers and teachers – theatre experience is not necessary.

Ollie Green of Greater Shantallow Community Arts says: "This is a great opportunity to for us as a community to showcase and exchange our ideas at the same time as being inspired by such a leading practitioner."

This masterclass programme is on Thursday 27 and Friday 28 January from 1pm to 6pm and Monday 31 and Tuesday 1 February from 1 – 6pm at the Playhouse. This is a free event.

ICAN Coordinator Elaine Forde said: "We are delighted to bring someone of such high calibre to Derry-Londonderry and to be providing opportunities for local community workers and facilitators to meet and be inspired by Hector.

"This is a real opportunity for local facilitators and artists to learn new techniques which they can employ in their own local work."

For further information about the Shantallow project or to sign-up to the masterclass contact Elaine Forde at the Playhouse on T. 02871 268027 or elaine@derryplayhouse.co.uk