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A public installation by Cooking Sections launched during the 17th Istanbul Biennial, organised by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV) with the support of Koç Holding last year, Wallowland / Çamuralem reopened in Istanbul and will continue its mission and programme in a new location in Kurtulus neighbourhood hosted by Ek Biç Ye İç. It reinterprets a Muhallebici (a buffalo milk dessert shop) to celebrate the water buffalos and their herders surrounding the city. The installation is embedded in a wider long-term research project by CLIMAVORE x Jameel at RCA into the preservation of Istanbul’s wetlands and the water buffalos that have used them as a home and habitat for hundreds of years. As buffalo found refuge and wallows in the region’s former industrial sites, the wetlands evolved with their help to support a unique and varied ecosystem of multiple species, including a unique bird migration corridor.

Buffalo milk is a historic and quintessential ingredient in Turkish cuisine that relies on the protection of wetlands. These peripheral landscapes to the city are culturally diverse and deserve the highest protection, but as the wetlands become increasingly encroached by urbanisation, Wallowland’s goal is to support this unique ecosystem and for its historical food traditions. Guests are invited to the new space to discuss and taste ongoing research on the history, environmental significance and culinary heritage of Istanbul’s wetlands and the buffalos that inhabit them. Traditional buffalo milk products such as kaymak, yoghurt, muhallebi and sütlaç, will be served alongside new recipes developed through collaborations between the herders and a number of restaurants and culinary institutions in Istanbul. The shop operates as the urban outpost of the wetlands, convening researchers, chefs, herding communities and the wider public. It will platform the ongoing debates and conversation through a public programme of talks and events leading up to Istanbul’s 2nd Water Buffalo Festival that will take place on 16th September 2023. This annual celebration continues to highlight the presence and permanence of both water buffalo and herders in Istanbul.

Part of this project investigates a Season of Wetland Draining. Wetlands, moors, marshes, swamps, mangroves and mudflats have been drained to ‘improve’ land for centuries, despite the importance of their biodiversity, filtering capacity, and buffering against flooding. In the past decades these landscapes have been recognised for contributing towards climate resilience. Can wetlands be the orchards of the future?

With 2026 declared the UN Year of Rangelands and Pastoralists, new international focus has been put on free animal roaming space and historical transhumance routes. The wetlands of Istanbul are not any different. Knowledge brought by Bulgarian herders in Ottoman times, and Turks exiled from Greece after the 1923 population exchange, boosted buffalo milk as an essential ingredient in yoghurt, kaymak and sütlaç. Since 2013, the region has seen urbanisation encroaching more and more the lands of the Buffalo, fragmenting the grazing commons as a side-effect. Through the study of metabolic interactions across species the project works to preserve the food and ecological heritage of the wetlands, herders and their pastoralist ways of life. It builds upon existing collaborations with the herders, and the work developed by CLIMAVORE in Istanbul over the past four years.