The artist duo Cooking Sections have ventured into the Turkish pudding business, selling traditional dishes made of water buffalo milk from an Istanbul storefront to help sustain a pastoral culture endangered by the government’s building boom.
The project, called Wallowland, presents research by London-based Cooking Sections—founded by Alon Schwabe and Daniel Fernández Pascual—into the centuries-old heritage and ecology of buffalo herding on the periphery of Istanbul, a city of nearly 16 million people.
“Buffalo herding is a quintessential practice around Istanbul. With all of the different threats of urbanisation, we are asking what we can do to ensure the longevity of this practice. How do we empower the herders and equip them as the landscape changes?”, the artists ask.
Longevity is central to the duo. Their open-ended Climavore project looks at how climate change is both fuelled by and transforms how we eat, and included an installation at Tate in 2020 that spurred the museum to take salmon off its menu. Wallowland reconfigures the eco artists’ 2022 Istanbul Biennial entry and a 2021 show at the SALT Beyoğlu arts centre in Istanbul.
Prized by Turks for their creamy milk, Istanbul’s buffalo population has collapsed as the city encroaches on outlying forest, farmlands and sources of drinking water. The government razed 13 million trees to build a motorway and airport in the north of the city, and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has vowed to dig a $15bn canal that, he says, would “ensure the safety of life and property of Istanbul’s Bosphorus and the citizens around it”, but that scientists warn would destroy remaining meadows, render half of Istanbul into an island and turn the sea anoxic.
The pudding sales will help to support herders, while the buffalo festival, first held at last year’s biennial, will become an annual event.