In Which Language Do We Dream? - PhMuseum

In Which Language Do We Dream?

Rich Wiles

2017 - Ongoing

I first met Rami in 2017, the year that he had arrived in the UK with his Ruba and their children. The family arrived in the UK from Lebanon, were they had lived in limbo following their forced displacement from Syria in 2012. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the outbreak of the ongoing crisis in Syria which has seen millions of Syrians forced from their homes and country.

I had arrived back in the UK with my own family in 2016, having been based in Palestine for many years. I eventually got married in Palestine and since 2016 I have been supporting my wife as she attempts to navigate through the UK's immigration minefield.

Rami and I seemed to share things in common and we soon became friends. Rami, Ruba and their children Mustapha, Yazan, Hanan and Rayan (born in the UK) welcomed me into their lives and our families became close. We also began a collaboration through photography that is now into its fifth year. Somewhere down the line I came to realise that through this work I was also exploring aspects of my own life.

'In Which language Do We Dream?' is a large collaborative and co-authored project that brings together my documentary work, re-worked family archive photographs that were rescued from Syria and, more recently, new images produced by the family themselves (mainly by Ruba) of their new lives. It explore's some of the challenges of displacement and resettlement and the complexities of identity, although at its heart this is a story of family and relationships.

*This entire body of work features photographs form a 17 year period, and also a film installation. 'In Which Language Do We Dream' will launch at Impressions Gallery, Bradford this year, curated by Anne Mcneill, and is supported by Arts Council England and Impressions Gallery.

{{ readMoreButton }}

  • Photo - Rich Wiles.
    Mint drying on the windowsill of the family's house in Yorkshire much as it would have been in Syria. Widely used in Arabic cuisine, Rami has planted mint is his garden in Yorkshire.

  • Photo - Rich Wiles.
    Re-worked family archive Photo. Text written by Rami:
    "This was the day we signed our wedding documents, me and Ruba, they were wonderful days. All of our loved ones and family, my sisters and brothers and Ruba's sisters and brothers were all there.

    For 8 years we haven't seen each other now. I don't know if we will be together again or not. I thought we would all be living together in Syria, I never expected that everyone would be living in a different country."

  • Photo - Rich Wiles.
    Rami and Ruba out on their weekly shopping trip to the nearest big city were they are able to buy Halal foods that are not available in the small market town in which they are being resettled.

  • Photo - Rich Wiles.
    Yazan (second right) during a PE lesson at school. The children arrived knowing no English at all but soon began to pick up the language and make friends at school.

  • Photo - Rich Wiles.
    Rami doing voluntary work for a social housing charity. Rami was keen to work as soon as he arrived but the language was a barrier. Voluntary work helped him learn new skills and develop his English.

  • Photo by Rich Wiles.
    Re-worked Family Archive Photograph.
    Text by Rami:
    "In 2004, we were sitting in the house – me, my brother and my dad. The weather was really hot and we were waiting for dinner.

    Since 2012 I have not seen my brother or my dad because my dad is in Turkey and my brother is in Syria.

    I dont know if I will go back and see them again or not."

  • Photo - Rich Wiles.
    Rami and Ruba preparing food while Yazan plays on his Playstation during the lockdown caused by the Coronavirus pandemic. With schools closed and little else to do screen-time kept the children busy with schools closed. Rami and Ruba prefer to prepare and eat Arabic food, while the children are now equally happy with chicken nuggets and chips.

  • Photo by Ruba al-Hindawi.
    Coffee and baklava being prepared to share with guests.

  • Photo by Ruba al-Hindawi.
    Mustapha playing football in the local park.

  • Photo - Rich Wiles.
    Hanan holding a balloon the day after her mum's birthday. In Syria, birthdays and other occasions were shared among their large extended families. In the UK the family have normally celebrated family occasions with other Syrian families, but Ruba's birthday in 2021 coincided with the start of 'Lockdown 3' adding a further layer of isolation from people.

  • Photo - Rich Wiles
    Re-worked Family Archive Photo. Text by Hanan (age 7):
    "I was 7 month[s] old and I had a white and [grey] and red dress.
    We [were] in Homs then we [went] to [Lebanon] because there was a [fight] in Syria
    and after we wanted to go back but the [fight] didn't stop."

  • Photo by Ruba al-Hindawi.
    Hanan (centre) and Rayan (centre left) playing with a dog in their neighbour's back garden.

  • Photo - Rich Wiles.
    Ruba alongside the coast in Flamborough. The family live close to the East Yorkshire coast and enjoy visiting the sea. In Syria, although their home in Homs was a long way from the coast, they also made trips to the beach but remember the sea being much bluer and the weather much warmer.

  • Rami (left) and Ruba (centre) with their children and members of another Syrian family with whom they have built strong relationships in the UK. With their families thousands of miles away and language still a challenge Rami and Ruba's social circles are quite small although they do have very close relationships with other Syrian families resettling locally.

  • Photo by Rich Wiles.
    Re-worked Family Archive Photo.
    Text by Ruba:
    "I was working in a shop that did photography and video, developing and printing photographs in Syria.

    I was really happy in the shop and I hope to go back and work in the same shop. There are loads of nice memories with my fiancee who is now my husband and my children's' father."

  • Photo - Rich Wiles.
    The family's new neighbourhood in Yorkshire. The family are being resettled on a council estate in a small Yorkshire market town.

  • Photo - Rich Wiles.
    Rami taking a family selfie to send to family members who are in other countries. Photos are sent regularly between family members and they speak most days via WhatsApp. Having lived surrounded by their families in Syria, Rami and Ruba's families are now displaced across various countries.

  • Photo - Ruba al-Hindawi.
    Mustapha (right) and Yazan watching a tablet under their bed during UK lockdown restrictions.

  • Photo - Rich Wiles.
    Re-worked Family Archive Photo.
    Text by Mustapha al-Hindawi (age 12):
    "These [pictures] were [taken] in Lebanon when we were coming to Britain.
    We needed them to get the visa.
    Lebanon was difficult for us but we had some family there."

  • Photo - Rich Wiles
    Mustapha (left) and Yazan (centre right) with friends while out playing alongside the local canal. All the children have made many friends in the local area and now speak excellent English with a local accent. Rami and Ruba have found the process slower, they have smaller social circles than the children and are less confident in English. Inside their house the children often speak together in English while their parents always converse in Arabic.


Newsletter