Eileen Bird Kngwarreye (pronounced Ung-wahr-ay) is an Eastern Arrernte woman, and her country is Arnumarra, near Gem Tree northeast of Alice Springs in Central Australia.
Her family grew up at Harts Range where her brothers and sisters continue to live. Eileen grew up on her country at Harts Range but moved to southern Utopia to marry her husband, the late Paddy Bird. Together, they had eleven children (Maggie, Tanya and Alvira Bird among them). Paddy's mother was a renowned artist named Ada Bird Petyarre, sister to the famous Gloria and Kathleen Petyarre.
Her artworks mainly depict either the ʻArlatyeyʼ story or Women's ceremony. ʻArlatyeyʼ is the Anmatyerre word for Pencil Yam. Many female artists often paint dreamings associated with bush foods, as they are vital to Aboriginal traditional life. Through painting, they pay homage and celebration of the continued growth of these plants to flourish from season to season.
In the Dreamtime there are two parts to the Pencil Yam Story which belong to two different countries. Two different seeds were borne that created two different species of pencil yam; one called Atnwelarr which belongs to Alhalkere and Atnangkere countries, and the other called Arlatyeye which belongs to Eileen’s country. Eileen uses dotwork in her paintings to portray the seeds (kame) of Arlatyeye. The Arlatyeye itself is a small, long tubular yam (swollen root) belonging to a trailing herb or creeper that often covers large areas of ground with bright green leaves and yellow flowers.
Eileen has been painting professionally since the mid 1990’s and her beautiful colourful works have a strong following.