The Saqba tomato

Since 2015, Art Lab Gnesta has been interested in how cultivation knowledge can be democratized in various ways and how this knowledge can reach a larger part of society at a time when global state-subsidized companies are privatizing and manipulating crops and working to criminalize civilian seed production. In 2016, Art Lab Gnesta met the chemist and hobbyfarmer Omar Sadek at Solbacka. Omar is originally from Saqba in the Damascus region of Syria. The common interest in cultivation in which Art Lab Gnesta and Omar met developed into an integral part of Art Lab Gnesta’s ongoing operations. Our first joint talks were about food production, the short Swedish summer and arable land in Syria that could no longer be used due to the war. The conversations then took place around a small farmbox in which a small bushy tomato plant had been lovingly braced up against a stick. Omar told us about some seeds from his family’s tomato farm in Saqba that he quickly had harvested before he was forced to flee his country. The seeds had been carefully stored in his inner pocket during the escape to Sweden. Together we started to grow these seeds here at Art Lab Gnesta and we have now been doing this for almost 6 years. We grow, eat and harvest seeds from the Saqba tomato every year together with the public. The seeds migrated to Sweden and now we work together to give them good contitions to thrive in Gnesta.

The Saqba tomatoe annually moves into villa gardens, allotments and schoolyards around Gnesta and Sweden. This ongoing work takes place in collaboration with school classes, civil servants, the public and hobby and professional growers and farmers living in and around Gnesta. Together, we try to prepare the Swedish soil to make room for our new tomato variety.

Our common goal is to formulate and write a new vegetable variety into our common cultivation history: The Sörmland Saqba tomato.