28 February 2023

Writer keen to provide platform to counter 'unfair' perception of youth

| Shri Gayathirie Rajen
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 Oumi Karenga-Hewitt

Teaching artist Oumi Karenga-Hewitt. Photo: Supplied.

For Griffith-based writer, actor and producer Oumi Karenga-Hewitt there’s no better feeling in the world than seeing someone accomplish something following hard work and a bit of vulnerability.

Oumi has been chosen to teach the Writing for Performance strand of the National Institute of Dramatic Arts’ (NIDA) regional program NIDA CONNECT at the Roxy Institute of Performing Arts (RIPA) in Leeton.

NIDA CONNECT is a national program designed for and dedicated to outer metropolitan and regional communities across Australia and provides a wide range of creative opportunities across live and digital storytelling.

The program will provide access to world-class creative industry training for local teaching artists and aspiring young people – regional students aged 15 to 18 looking to train in acting, writing, design and technical production.

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Oumi told Region she felt honoured to be selected as one of the four teaching artists for NIDA’s regional program and was excited about delivering the course to the local young people.

“I love Leeton’s passion and commitment to building and nurturing the community and so hope to share that same level of passion to this program,” Oumi said.

“As a writer, I’m excited to learn from NIDA and carry those skills to develop my writing and storytelling abilities.

“The content has already been extremely helpful alongside my teaching degree and I see how and why the practice-based strategies taught by NIDA are so successful.”

Oumi said there was a misconception that people had to be talented to do certain things, when actually most things were skills that they needed to train and develop.

“Young people can be unfairly portrayed as lazy, blase and unmotivated but I think what they sometimes lack is an environment where they can safely explore their creative sides,” Oumi said. “A place where they can build those skills and see them pay off – see themselves achieve something however big or small.

“Playing any part in this process for a young person is a privilege that I hope I use well.”

The new teaching artist said Leeton being chosen among only six locations across Australia to deliver the program provided opportunities to build skills that gave locals access to exciting careers.

“It is made even better knowing that they (locals) hold their community close to their heart,” she said.

“Jake Speer (RIPA artistic director) is a NIDA graduate and Leeton local who received training and skills to go into acting but has come back to give more people from his town opportunities to pursue a career in the performing arts.”

Oumi is hoping to learn valuable skills to inform her writing and storytelling through the program and is looking forward to connecting with young people and encouraging them to explore their passions and interests through the art of storytelling.

“I would love to complete this program with a view to developing my own screenplays, and collaborating with others in writers’ rooms and on creative projects,” she said.

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Oumi has been in love with stories from a young age and loves anything to do with performing and engaging with people.

“I am very talkative … throughout my career (in marketing, then economic and community development) I’ve always found ways to work with young people, or share skills that I’ve learned with others and I think that’s probably my true passion.

“I have recently auditioned for the local community musical and joined the team for Mona Magazine earlier this year.

“Getting the chance to perform and work with writers through Mona is going to make this year really exciting.”

The Mona Magazine team supports female writers in regional, rural and remote communities and Oumi has been published in issue one of the magazine as well as the online blog.

Oumi has a finger in many projects and this year hopes to focus her energy on creative pursuits.

Through her various roles Oumi realised how disadvantaged regional communities could be and is working on projects that aim to support careers, creativity and study.

Oumi works at the Country Universities Centre Western Riverina and is vice chair of Western Riverina Arts.

She’s been an active member of the Griffith & Regional Association of the Performing Arts for a number of years and was on stage in Twelfth Night, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Crucible as well as taking on backstage roles in producing, directing and choreography in these shows and the Vintage Voices radio series.

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