Vinh Long Province in southern Vietnam is believed to be the birthplace of Jonathan Arjen Ijff, a Vietnamese-Dutch artist and graphic designer. Ijff has traveled to many provinces in southern Vietnam in search of his biological mother. Despite not being fluent in Vietnamese, Ijff always starts his story by introducing himself as a Vietnamese and stating that Vinh Long is where he was born. He was born in January 1975 and was left at the Good Shepherd convent in Vinh Long shortly after. He was later taken to Ho Chi Minh City and eventually adopted by a family in the Netherlands. It took him a long time to develop an interest in his origin and decide to visit Vietnam. Since his first visit to Vietnam in 2007, he has returned multiple times, feeling a sense of belonging and a step closer to his origin with each visit. Ijff hopes to reunite with his biological mother and has been diligently studying the Vietnamese language in preparation. He has been distributing bilingual leaflets in Vinh Long, asking for help in finding his mother. Despite not finding any clues about his bio-parents after nine visits, Ijff remains hopeful. He believes that his mother did what she did because she wanted the best for him. He earnestly hopes to meet her, express his love for her, and let her know that he is living well. In addition to searching for his biological parents, Ijff also aims to find his Vietnamese identity and connect with his Vietnamese roots. He has reached out to the Vinh Long Archive Center to search for documents about himself. Although the journey to find his origin is uncertain, Ijff is determined to continue his search and find his place of belonging.

‘Please help me find my mother!’

Ijff’s adoptive mother passed away about 10 years ago, but before her death, she gave him some photos from when he was three months old, along with a piece of paper stating his Vietnamese name and place of birth. In 2017, Ijff returned to Vietnam to search for his biological mother. Despite not finding any clues during his visits, he remains hopeful. He has printed bilingual leaflets asking for help in finding his mother and has been distributing them in Vinh Long. Ijff believes that his mother may be around 70 years old now and hopes to meet her, express his love, and assure her that he is doing well. He plans to travel to Ho Chi Minh City next week before returning to the Netherlands. He hopes that this Year of the Cat, the year he was born, will bring luck and a miracle will happen. His first Tet celebration in Vietnam was a significant experience that made him proud of being born in Vietnam.

Reunifying two halves of a person

In addition to searching for his biological parents, Ijff has another mission – finding his Vietnamese self. He wants to unify the two halves of himself, although he acknowledges that it is a challenging task. He has reached out to the Vinh Long Archive Center to search for documents about himself, but only three dossiers remain from the 26 children adopted in 1975. Despite the uncertainty and the lack of clues, Ijff believes that his mother is in Vinh Long and, if found, he plans to return to live in his birthplace. He sees his mother in every corner and will continue his search as long as he is able to. In September last year, Ijff won a contest to design a logo for the celebration of 50 years of Vietnam-Netherlands diplomatic ties. His design features a combination of Vietnam’s lotus and the Netherlands’ tulip, symbolizing his Vietnamese-Dutch identity and his desire to connect with Vietnam and repay the past.