Rich Wiles

ONGOING JOURNEYS

It was just a few months after his arrival in the UK that I first met Rami. Having fled with his wife, Ruba, and their children, Mustapha, Yazan and Hanan from the besieged Syrian city of Homs, Rami and his family were later brought to the UK under the British Government’s resettlement program. They were housed in a small East Yorkshire market town and arrived in the UK in the aftermath of the Brexit referendum.

I had recently returned to the UK myself after many years based in Palestine including time living inside a refugee camp. I later got married in Palestine. Now back in the UK with my family, I am currently supporting my wife as she attempts to navigate the UK’s immigration system.

Rami and I seemed to share several things in common and we soon became friends. I began to document the new stages of his family’s life as they attempted to rebuild. As our relationship developed, I began to wonder if I was also exploring elements of my own life and family through our time together.

I felt however, there was something missing within the project, a deeper context which was needed although still to reveal itself. Then one day Rami told me a story…

Soon after the family had been forced to flee their home it was invaded by militias who caused widespread damage and scattered many of their belongings. Days later, a member of Rami and Ruba’s extended family passed by and found a small collection of family photographs among their strewn possessions. She picked them up and took them with her to Lebanon (when she also fled) where she found Rami and Ruba and reunited them with this tiny collection of printed memories.

They brought this small surviving collection with them to the UK. They are all that remains of their visual history. Most of Rami and Ruba’s surviving family have now been displaced to several countries around the world, a few remain internally displaced within Syria. Taking collective family photographs is no longer possible although, via ‘Whatsapp’, the fragmented family continue to take and send each other photographs of their lives today.

‘Ongoing Journeys’ is a personal yet participatory project that brings together, at least photographically, an extended yet fragmented Syrian family. Collectively, we are rebuilding a family archive.

Rich Wiles

 

Ongoing Journeys – Awards:

St. Hugh’s Foundation Arts Award – Winner
Brighton Photo Biennial ‘Open Forum’ Open Call – Among Winners
UNHCR Innovation Award – Shortlist
Jerwood/Photoworks Photography Prize – Longlist

‘Ongoing Journeys’ has received the generous support of:

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