Buffalo herder Miray Yoldaş. Photo: Deniz Sabuncu

CLIMAVORE x Jameel at the Royal College of Art hosts water buffalo festival for the future of Istanbul’s wetlands

Istanbul, Türkiye

On Saturday 1 June 2024, CLIMAVORE x Jameel at the Royal College of Art (RCA) partnered with the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV) to host the 2024 edition of Istanbul’s water buffalo festival - Manda Festivali.

The Manda Festivali is an annual buffalo festival, founded in 2022 by Cooking Sections, as part of the 17th Istanbul Biennial. This year’s third edition will take place in Ağaçlı village outside Istanbul in Türkiye. The festival highlights the presence and permanence of both water buffalo and herders in Istanbul, while preserving the historic food heritage of such practices that are being threatened by infrastructure and urbanisation. The Manda Festivali is part of CLIMAVORE x Jameel at RCA’s water buffalo commons project.  

Bringing together local herders, musicians, ecologists, artists, biologists, cheese makers and the general public, the festival will offer a full programme of activities including a chance to sample water buffalo milk delicacies in outdoor tastings, served by EK BİÇ YE İÇ and local producers. Themed guided walks will take participants on different routes across Ağaçlı village, showcasing endemic species, pastures, forest ecosystems and water buffalo. Other activities will include children's workshops, a local producers’ market and live music performances by Cümbüş Cemaat and Arnavutköy musicians.  

A water buffalo and herder portrait competition will be held to celebrate the human and more-than-human residents of the wetland ecosystem, with bespoke buffalo bells awarded to both the jury’s and peoples’ favourites.  

This year, the festival will offer Istanbul’s residents, food producers and environmentalists an opportunity to come together and highlight, celebrate and support the cultural and ecological importance of both buffalo herding and Istanbul’s endangered wetlands, in order to maintain pastoralist landscapes in contemporary society as part of the city’s food belt strategy.  

CLIMAVORE x Jameel at RCA reimagines foodways for drylands and wetlands in the climate crisis. It advances ecological networks to produce new knowledge and action towards spatial justice. CLIMAVORE x Jameel at RCA is a partnership between CLIMAVORE and Community Jameel developed at the RCA. 

Following the Manda Festivali, CLIMAVORE x Jameel at RCA will announce the recipients of its inaugural Food Action Awards, which are offered to advance projects that respond to food in the new seasons of the climate crisis, such as drought, polluted oceans or fertiliser runoff.  

Alon Schwabe and Daniel Fernández Pascual, principal investigators of CLIMAVORE x Jameel at RCA, said: 'After four years working with the herders of Istanbul’s wetlands, we are extremely excited to see this next edition of Manda Festivali take place and celebrate the pastoralist landscape in the North of the city. The festival is a unique opportunity to continue deepening the collaboration with Ek Biç Ye Iç and the Çamuralem Muhallebici shop in Kurtuluş, as well as our other local partners Postane, Anadolu Meraları and Kuzey Ormanları Savunması, expanding the availability of buffalo milk products in Istanbul and the conservation of its wetlands.'

Kevser Güler, İstanbul Bienali direktörü, İKSV: 'We are very happy to organise the 3rd annual Buffalo Festival this year within the scope of the Climavore x Jameel at RCA, in partnership with Cooking Sections, one of the participants of the 17th Istanbul Biennial. Cooking Sections develops methods through food to address environmental issues. The Çamuralem / Wallowland project they prepared for the biennial traced the effects of the threat of extinction of the wetlands around the city on Istanbul's water buffalos. With this process based on the extensive research they conducted for the biennial in 2022, we also had a buffalo festival. We have prepared for a beautiful festival this year with our local partners and we are looking forward to all Istanbul residents.'

Cléa Daridan, head of arts and culture at Community Jameel, said: 'Supporting pastoralist communities around the world is key to our work at Community Jameel. We are very pleased to collaborate with our partners on the water buffalo commons project and Manda Festivali, both of which celebrate the culture of Istanbul's wetlands, highlight the importance of food and ecological heritage and work towards achieving long term climate resilience.'

Professor Christoph Lindner, president & vice-chancellor of the Royal College of Art, said: 'As the effects of climate change contribute to an evolution of how we live, work and eat, it is important to understand the different ways in which communities, economies and the land around us interact to meet the many and complex needs of a society in flux. Both innovation and tradition are important considerations and I'm pleased to see CLIMAVORE x Jameel at RCA hosting the water buffalo festival and celebrating the benefits that participating in cutting edge research can create.'