11 September 2019

Sassy spirit to shine at Festival of Open Minds this September in Bega

| Ian Campbell
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Sassi Nuyum, aka Meaghan Holt. Photo: Lisa Herbert.

Sassi Nuyum, aka Meaghan Holt. Photo: Lisa Herbert.

One of the region’s rising artists is the latest to sign on for the Festival of Open Minds in Bega this September.

Sassi Nuyum, aka Meaghan Holt, has been writing since she was a little girl – writing runs in her family’s blood.

Meaghan lost her mother at the age of 9 and has since been raised predominately with her Aboriginal family, extended and otherwise. That said her mother’s spirit is strong and burns bright, it guides Meaghan’s writing along with her very large bloodline of ancestors.

Her writing and subsequent performance can pack a punch, hence her creative name ‘Sassi Nuyum’ – Nuyum meaning spirit in the Wakka Wakka language. A spirit that is always edged with a lively, bold, stage presence that supports the idea of a ‘sassy spirit’.

Sassi now lives on Yuin Country in the Bega Valley but was born on the lands of the Kurnai People in Yarram, Victoria.

Her mother’s family are of European background – dairy farmers who were very connected to the countryside they made a living on. Her grandmother (Pickering) is from Wakka Wakka Country, her grandfather (Holt) was born on Bidjara land at Springsure, west of Gladstone in Queensland and her father is a Gayndah man also a Queenslander.

Meaghan’s ancestors also had periods of being removed to Worrabinda and Cherbourg missions.

It’s heritage Sassi has a deep connection and respect for, values that impress and leave a mark on audiences.

Sassi writes on subjects ranging from – mental health, colonisation, domestic violence, substance misuse, environment, and grief, with each performance guided by the moment and the spirits at her side.

Last year’s Giiyong Festival at Jigamy between Pambula and Eden was the first time this thirty-something artist performed publically, it lit a spark in her and the rest of the community, both wanting more and a deeper understanding.

Sassi described the experience as amazing and almost transcendent, “My ancestors were here and they helped my voice rise,” she told Region Media at the time.

Sassi Nuyum, performing at Navigate Arts, inside Tanja Church. Photo: Lisa Herbert.

Sassi Nuyum, performing at Navigate Arts, inside Tanja Church. Photo: Lisa Herbert.

Renowned Aboriginal writer, Ali Cobby Eckermann was in the audience that day at Giiyong and one of the many people touched by Sassi’s strength and vulnerability, and one of those who rose from their seat to give Sassi her very first standing ovation.

From there, Sassi was successful in securing a mentorship with Ali for unpublished Aboriginal poets she believes writes poetry that ‘has the capacity to heal’.

Sassi, is currently engaged in that process and will bring that experience to her time at the Festival of Open Minds.

“Writing is a tool for me, for self-expression, but also a healing tool,” Sassi says.

“I have chosen some broken paths, writing has been a saviour. Through my writing, I will be able to gift back to the lands and its people that have embraced me.

“I think if we can be united in the simplicity of some of these stories then we come together as a human race – that’s what it is all about,” Sassi says.

The Festival of Open Minds is proud to showcase Sassi Nuyum, a performer, person, and soul traveling life’s road with a compelling insight and honest creativity that rises above the barriers that sometimes block cultural understanding and open conversation.

Meaghan Holt, both as herself and as Sassi Nuyum, channels the hurt, pain and resilience of her own background and that of her peoples in a way that open minds, hearts and shared understanding, she is indeed one of our ‘people with oomph’.

“I’m not stuck in those places of grief. I want to display pride in Aboriginal people’s travesty,” she says.

Come to the Festival of Open Minds on September 14 at the Bega Valley Commemorative Civic Centre and experience what I struggle to put into words for yourself.

The theme for Open Minds in 2019 is ‘People With Oomph’ inspired by Bega Valley song man Damon Davis and his song of the same name.

“People with oomph – they’re not lyin down. People with oomph – spread the good life. People with oomph – keep their own style. People with oomph – walk mile after mile,” Damon sings.

The 2019 Festival of Open Minds line up so far includes:

  • Tim Costello, Chief Advocate, World Vision;
  • Nas Campanella, blind Triple J newsreader;
  • Pastor Christie Buckingham, spiritual counselor to executed Bali 9 drug smuggler Myuran Sukumaran;
  • Aly Khalifa, founder of Oceanworks, focused on harvesting plastic waste from our oceans;
  • Emma Booth, para-equestrian competitor, represented Australia at the 2016 Rio Paralympics;
  • Alasdair Tremblay-Birchall, comedian, joke writer, grew up in Tathra.

More announcements will be made very soon, stay in touch via the festival website.

Early bird tickets and lunch options are on sale now via Eventbrite. Early bird prices end August 14!

Thank you to our Festival partners –


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