Natasha's Remedy for Healing: Creativity, plants and Ayurveda
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Natasha’s distance from the Singhalese parts of her identity created a sense of dislocation from her culture that only creativity remedies.
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Natasha's Remedy for Healing: Creativity, plants and Ayurveda

by Devana Senanayake See Profile
Melbourne VIC, Australia
29th Aug 2018
Natasha's Remedy for Healing: Creativity, plants and Ayurveda

Natasha Peiris is all about roots – literally and metaphorically. 

Natasha’s parents migrated to Melbourne from Sri Lanka just before she was born. Her mother has a Burgher background (Burghers are a Sri Lankan minority of Dutch-Portuguese ancestry). 

As a result of her parent’s relocation and their desire to fully embrace an Australian identity, she never learned to speak her mother tongue, Singhalese. When she visited Sri Lanka, she socialised with people who fluently spoke Singhalese and found it to be “great for [her] soul”. 

Natasha’s distance from the Singhalese parts of her identity gave way to a sense of dislocation and disconnection from her culture. The roots of her heritage had been amputated, in a sense. This undeniably influenced the directions her career took. 

Natasha started her career at a fashion retail store at a young age. She learned basic skills that equipped her for the future:  to sell products to people, to present a store to customers and to convey the essence of a brand. 

At RMIT, she chose to study “Visual Merchandising” and learned to apply her creative inclinations within a commercial space. 

Alongside a group of likeminded creatives, she founded a zine called “Out4Fame”, now famously re-titled Acclaim Magazine. She knew emerging hip hop artists and musicians for whom the magazine acted as an informal PR and marketing platform. Through “Out4Fame”, Natasha found her community. 

“I found my people there, I found my tribe,” Natasha says “I loved supporting art, supporting music.” This led to a long career in corporate marketing and brand management. 

Her experience led her to found her plant décor business, Luscious Jungle. 

Natasha’s family has a running tradition of gardening and they gave her several cuttings from their gardens. Natasha started planting these cuttings and brought more plants into her home. 

 “I created a little bit of an oasis for myself in my house. I found myself gathering plants and really reconnecting with nature and my ancestors,” Natasha says. 

Through the act of gardening she continued to the practices of her family. She also tapped into a lifelong passion pursued by her grandfather, T. D. L Peiris, a humanitarian and author of several books about sustainable economy, farming and co-operative societies. 

As the pace of her life changed and her life became more enriched, she reconnected to her creativity and, in a sense, came back to herself. 

Once she transformed her house into a luscious space, she started a business that focused on “sensory design” and “interior design”. It is not surprising that the business echoed her personal narrative of rebirth. 

Her business combines nature, aesthetics and functionality. She hoped to bring in her experience of building sensory environments and her skills in branding that spoke to the heart and soul of a customer. 

“It could be done more like a business but I like it the way it is,” Natasha says. “I didn’t want to do it like a production line. I wanted things to grow organically.” 

The life of the plant and its relationship to the buyer are crucial to her business.

“I won’t ever put plants into a space unless I know that the plants are going to be sustained,” Natasha says. 

Through one of her designs, she countered the feeling of suspension that she had experienced throughout her life. 

Natasha favours glass pots which expose the roots of plants, speaking to her history and sense of dislocation.

She also sells plants accompanied by a syringe. These designs stood out as care packages. The syringe symbolised the need for plants to be taken care of; “It’s like a child, you have to feed it,” Natasha says. 

Natasha’s creative skills culminated beautifully in a “living installation” for Torika Bolatagici’s project: Community Reading Room. The room housed books and literature solely from the Pacific Islands, Africa and the Americas. 

In her article for the project, Natasha stated:

“We wanted our work to reflect the idea of libraries providing a kind of freedom – freedom of ideas and freedom to share and communicate. We felt a deep sense of honour and indigenous wisdom reminding us that the natural world is enchanting and sacred, and that we are part of it, creating and co-creating.”

Through her installation, she hoped to create an “immersive experience” and take participants on a journey through Pacific Island life. 

In her description of her installation, she stated

“A canopy of lush vegetation appeared amongst the tangled reeds and roots, trailing ferns, and fresh forest moss. We arranged the plants in a kind of rhythm around the room, following a pattern of shapes and colours. We spent time preparing before their debut: wiping leaves, pruning, trimming, repotting and watering…Dried rosemary sticks were woven through the display, giving a gentle, uplifting aroma which encouraged mental clarity.”

She created symbiotic environments that incorporate various plants into her installation. On top of this, her installation complimented the collective gatherings and community events that occurred in the space.

Ever curious and expansive, Natasha is hoping to expand her services to include Ayurveda practices. During her aunt’s final days of cancer, Natasha created a soothing environment around her. She bought plants, essential oils, music and meditation into her aunt’s room. 

Natasha’s interest in Ayurveda only intensified. She visited Sri Lanka and travelled to various labs, hospital and symposiums to understand the “truth” behind the practice. Natasha is currently studying to be an Ayurvedic Lifestyle Consultant. 

Natasha has managed to counteract her lifelong feeling of suspension through personal experiences and creativity. She has connected to the roots that lie deep in her culture and sprout projects that celebrate her cross cultural identity. Her journey can only continue to evolve and flourish as a caretaker and a healer. 

Pictured: Installation by Natasha Peiris.
Pictured: Installation by Natasha Peiris.

Learn more about Luscious Jungle

Luscious Jungle
Devana Senanayake

About Devana Senanayake

Devana Senanayake is currently based in Melbourne, Victoria. She is a multimedia journalist and radio producer. She focuses on race, gender, colonisation, diasporas and food. She has been featured on SBS, Meanjin, Why Not, Ascension Magazine and Writers Magazine.

More from Devana Senanayake

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Identity, Health Care
Melbourne VIC, Australia
29th August 2018

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