Nangamai (Dream)

A celebration of First Nations culture

Experience Nangamai ('Dream' in the Dharawal language), the NFSA's online collection of First Nations content.

The Nangamai Collection pays tribute to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander trailblazers, icons, dreamers and performers who have kept their rich culture and history alive through activism, writing, filmmaking, song, dance and art.

Warning: this page contains names, images and voices of deceased Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The Trailblazers

Blood Brothers – Freedom Ride (1993), directed by Rachel Perkins, is a documentary chronicling the 1965 'freedom ride' led by her father, Dr 'Kumantjayi' (Charlie) Perkins AO. During this pivotal event, Dr Perkins and fellow University of Sydney students travelled through rural NSW to expose racial segregation in Australia.

Eddie Koiki Mabo (1936–1992) was a Meriam man from the island of Mer (Murray Island) in the Torres Strait. His name has become synonymous with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander land rights because he was a key plantiff in the Mabo case. 

Landmark television series First Australians (2008) tells the Australian story from a First Nations point of view. It brings to light some of the violent aspects of European settlement of Australia as well as acts of friendship and decency between the early European settlers and Indigenous Australians.

The Icons

The Dreamers

We spoke with Warwick Thornton about his film The Darkside (2013) – an anthology of first-hand Indigenous ghost stories. The Darkside includes a sequence set at the NFSA in Canberra which explores the history of the building as the former Australian Institute of Anatomy where First Nations remains were kept and studied.

In 2022, the NFSA screened the documentary Ablaze (2021) and hosted a Q&A with co-directors Tiriki Onus and Alec Morgan. Ablaze tells the story of Bill Onus, a Yorta Yorta/Wiradjuri man from Victoria and Australia’s first Aboriginal filmmaker. He revived his people’s culture in the 1940s and ignited a civil rights movement that would, against enormous odds, change the course of history.

The NFSA celebrates Deborah Mailman in this online collection covering her stellar screen career. As well as being one of Australia's favourite actors, Deborah Mailman is also an important figure in First Nations filmmaking and storytelling. Her work has been part of a movement that has reframed the way First Nations performers are cast and portrayed in mainstream productions and helped empower Indigenous artists to tell their own stories.

Deadly Sounds

First Nations Sounds of Australia

First Nations Sounds of Australia features the voices of First Nations artists who have been inducted into the NFSA's Sounds of Australia registry. They include the best-selling Aboriginal music album in history, the first mainstream chart hit for an Aboriginal artist, a poetry reading by Oodgeroo Noonuccal and Tasmanian Aboriginal songs and languages recorded in the 1890s.

Also represented are popular artists like Christine Anu, Archie Roach, Kev Carmody, No Fixed Address, Yothu Yindi and the Warumpi Band.

Jimmy Little playing a guitar
Royal Telephone by Jimmy Little

This was the first recording by an Indigenous Australian to achieve mainstream chart success, reaching No. 1 on the Sydney charts and No. 10 nationally. The song established Jimmy Little as a star in Australian popular music and his career continued for over 40 years.

Close up of singer Jessica Mauboy
Black and deadly women

This collection celebrates the black and deadly women of Australian music, from Fanny Cochrane Smith in the 1890s to Jessica Mauboy in the 21st century, and hits an array of genres including country, jazz, pop, folk and rock.

First Nations singer Wilma Reading
Wilma Reading

Following in the footsteps of her aunt Georgia Lee, Wilma Reading’s jazz ambition took her around the world. Throughout her 40-year career Wilma performed with some of the world’s leading jazz musicians, including the legendary Duke Ellington Band. She also appeared on America's most iconic TV talk show, The Johnny Carson Show.

Yothu Yindi's 'Treaty': On 14 July 1991, a remix of Yothu Yindi’s ‘Treaty’ became the first song by an Aboriginal band to reach the mainstream pop singles chart in Australia, peaking at No. 11 in September 1991. Yothu Yindi collaborated with Paul Kelly and Peter Garrett in writing ‘Treaty’, which was included on the band’s second album, Tribal Voice (released October 1991). The song was a powerful protest against the lack of a treaty with Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Read the story behind the 1991 remix of 'Treaty'.

First Nations singer Kev Carmody playing guitar and singing into a microphone
From Little Things Big Things Grow

This iconic Australian protest song pays tribute to the Gurindji people. Written by prominent Australian singer-songwriters Paul Kelly and Kev Carmody, the lyrics tell the story of the Wave Hill Walk-Off in 1966 – an event which become a catalyst for the Aboriginal land rights movement.

White, red, yellow and black dust (representing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander colours) on the ground.
I hope the collection will inspire audiences to dream big, to remember that images, music and words can change lives. The NFSA are proud custodians of many items that combine to create a living memory of who we are, who we have been and who we want to be in our futures.
Gillian Moody
NFSA Senior Manager, Indigenous Connections
Dance on Screen
Ceremony, Art and Culture
A young Indigenous boy lying down getting his face painted for a ceremony.

Djungguwan Ceremony

The Djungguwan Ceremony is performed by the Yolngu people of north-east Arnhem Land. This collection gives an insight into three different ceremonies, from 1966, 1976 and 2002.

The aim of the Djungguwan is to bring young boys into the Law, identifying them with clansmen of previous generations and with their ancestral origins.

Through song, dance and art, the ceremony tells a narrative about two ancestral beings, the Wawilak Sisters, as they journey through Country creating each tribe and clan and giving them their Law. No two performances of the Djungguwan are the same.

A section of a traditional Aboriginal painting

First Nations artists and art

The NFSA holds a vast array of films documenting First Nations artists and art. This collection illustrates the many and varied ways that First Nations Australians express themselves through art.

The collection also shows how Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander peoples have worked together to form artist collectives and cooperatives to the benefit of their communities.

It features a range of characters and art styles and reminds us of the importance of the Dreamtime, spirituality and the strict rules that govern who can tell certain stories in Aboriginal cultures.