Remy Gastembede

July 2, 1998 - August 1, 1998

Amerasians waiting to be interviewed by the Orderly Departure Program team in Ho Chi Minh city. Although not knowing what is in store for them in the states, all wish to find their father

Image © Remy Gastembede

Nits Mau, 28, orphan from Boun Me Thout (Dalat province, central Vietnam) was brought up by Catholic sisters. In 1993 Nits, adopted by a Vietnamese family realizes his adoption was a pretext for the family to go to the States- a useless tactic, for the O.D. P. team is not easily duped. Rejected by the family, Nits ends up on the street.

Image © Remy Gastembede

Le Quoc Couong holds the photo of his father, "This smiling gentle hero." For these Amerasians those snapshots are precious talismans giving pride and confidence. What else remains to the Amerasians?

Image © Remy Gastembede

"Do you know where is my father?" asks Vo Thanh Son 25. Son lives with his mother, a soup vendor in Ho Chi Minh City, after his father, a solider based at Bien Hoa U.S. Air Force Base from 1969 to 1970, left them.

Image © Remy Gastembede

Remy Gastembede

The Black Amerasians of Vietnam

“Ashamed of Living”

My name is Rem Gastembede. I was born in Vietnam, during the Vietnam war, son of an unknown Vietnamese women and a black American solider.

The Amerasians (Con Lai) are the mixed race children resulting from the American war in Vietnam from 1965 to 1975. They are more popularly known in Vietnam as “Bui Doi” (Dust of Life). Despite the poetic nature of the metaphor in common use it expresses scorn and exclusion. Many of these children have been abandoned by their fathers, and that’s if they survived the war. Life is difficult for the “Bui Doi.” They exist only as pariahs of the Vietnamese society. The mothers who have decided to keep their children are made to feel ashamed by their compatriots who refer to them as prostitutes and, therefore worthless.

The Amerasians who are fathered by black G.I.’s suffer even more. Their Afro heritage causes intense racial hatred in Vietnam. The Amerisians have the dream of escaping from Vietnam and going to the United States to be with their fathers, whom they idolize. This is a utopian dream. Many are unaware of the United States’ cruel history with regard to African Americans. The irony is that the land of their dreams may become another nightmare.

I returned to Vietnam for the first time in 1991. I was able to witness the disdain with which many of the children were treated. Having seen this abominable situations first hand. I felt the most profound bitterness and rage at witnessing their ineffable grief. I understand their “shame of living.” I produced this photographic essay in the spirit of compasssion. This work represents my personal battles against oblivion and sorrow. These photographs help me in the search for my own identity and my roots. I wanted to create a voice for the Amerasians with whom I identify.

We are part of the history of the war in which we were born. We are, today, ultimate losers of this war neither the Americans or Vietnamese have won. Both sides now refuse to take responsibility for the Amerasians. We have become a race within the Vietnamese race, a distinct group without internal cohesion, a result of the famous American melting pot, displaced in Southeast Asia.