Muhallebici Shop to taste the wetlands of the city opens in Istanbul

Istanbul, Türkiye

Wallowland (Çamuralem) is set to reopen in Istanbul on 10 June 2023 at a new location, building on its mission and programme. Initially launched as a public installation at the 17th Istanbul Biennial in 2022 by Cooking Sections and the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (IKSV), the installation this year is part of CLIMAVORE x Jameel at the Royal College of Art and will be hosted by Ek Biç Ye Iç.

Wallowland (Çamuralem) reinterprets a Muhallebici (a buffalo milk dessert shop) to celebrate water buffalo and their herders surrounding the city. The installation is part of CLIMAVORE x Jameel at RCA’s broader research which includes looking at the preservation of Istanbul’s wetlands and the water buffalo that have used them as a home and habitat for hundreds of years. Buffalo milk is a historic and quintessential ingredient in Turkish cuisine that relies on the protection of wetlands, which are culturally diverse and deserve the highest protection.

In the face of increasing encroachment on wetlands 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 discover ongoing research on the history, environmental significance and culinary heritage of Istanbul’s wetlands and the buffalo 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 serves as the urban outpost of the wetlands, convening researchers, chefs, herding communities and the wider public. Wallowlands will serve as a platform for 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.

The project will also aim to investigate the 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. 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.

For regular updates on the public programme of the space, please check the Istanbul Biennial’s website.