an NFSA website

Deadly Yarns – Ganggu Mama (2004)


A gang of young Aboriginal boys living in the city and getting up to mischief turn their backs on their culture. Ganggu Mama (David Ngoombujarra), or Uncle Daddy, suggests the boys join him busking at the Fremantle markets, but they refuse. Ganggu Mama’s nephew reconsiders his uncle’s invitation and leaves his friends. Ganggu Mama plays the didgeridoo while Jackson (Clarence Ryan) dances the brolga dance for the gathered crowd. Jackson stays out of trouble and reconnects with his culture.

Curator’s notes

The fine representation of Aboriginal men and boys in Ganggu Mama subverts the stereotype of maladjusted adults and irresponsible family members. As a good role model, caring uncle and man of culture, the character of Ganggu Mama is a breath of fresh air in the Australian film industry.

Ganggu Mama pays homage to the Aboriginal men who make didgeridoos and busk for a living. This practice enables the men to pursue a career in the arts, maintain their connection with their cultural heritage and provides them with a small income. The story is inspired by buskers and cultural warriors Jack Kempton ('Nullagine Jack’) and Allan Barker Snr ('Black Al’).

Acclaimed actor-writer David Ngoombujarra writes and performs the song ‘50,000 years’ and plays the didgeridoo in the film. His vivid portrayal of Ganggu Mama imbues the film with a strong sense of cultural meaning. In the making-of documentary, Ngoombujarra speaks highly of the acting ability and natural talent of his young co-star Clarence Ryan (September, 2007).

As Aboriginal people write and direct more films like Ganggu Mama the paradigm will slowly change, bringing with it a new way of seeing and appreciating Aboriginal men.

Ganggu Mama was broadcast on ABC Television as part of Message Stick in 2004.