SOTWA started in Africa in 2014, where rapid globalisation is enforcing a worrying trend towards more monoculture. Expansive industrial agriculture, intensive livestock farming and climate change are increasingly threatening the chances of survival for local communities.

In Tanzania, Koen Vanmechelen donated a Kenyan bull to the Masai, so they could cross-breed it with a cow from their own herd. The result was a bovine specimen with greater genetic variety and greater resistance. The community gave the animal its name.


We call the animal SOTWA, which means ‘umbilical cord,’ because it will connect us for life

Masai community, Tanzania

The SOTWA project encourages the restoration, conservation and growth of biocultural diversity in order to strengthen local ecosystems. It is a special kind of collaboration that connects art, science and local communities in the search for more sustainable, small-scale models for agricultural.

After the animals die, Vanmechelen receives their skin and horns, which he uses to make artworks. The project is now also being rolled out in other African countries (Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, etc.).

SOTWA Tanzania