Manon van Hoeckel

Interview with Manon van Hoeckel about In Limbo Embassy – Embassy of the Undocumented – DDW 2015

Manon van Hoeckel

Social & Green Design Guide with: Manon van Hoeckel at Design Academy Eindhoven – DDW 2015

Video by Robert Andriessen
Text by Annemiek van Grondel
Produced in partnership with DOEN Foundation

In Limbo Embassy – Embassy of the Undocumented


Manon van Hoeckel (1990, Diessen) calls herself a critical social designer: someone with the ideals and persistence to solve difficult issues. Following her cum laude graduation from the Design Academy last year, she began working for clients and has self-initiated collaborative projects. In Limbo Embassy – Embassy of the Undocumented was created for rejected refugees in response to a real problem. “In a political atmosphere where refugees are dehumanised into numbers, direct contact between society and asylum seekers is lacking,” she explains. “When I started visiting a group of undocumented migrants in Amsterdam I became more aware of their daily reality. Some people don’t go into the buildings where migrants (temporarily) live because they are afraid to enter somebody’s private space. That is how the idea of the Embassy occurred, as a neutral meeting place for dialogue, debate, and cultural exchange.”

After a successful crowdfunding campaign, over 150 people became Ambassadors of the Embassy to spread the story – and the team is still expanding. Besides going to festivals and events, In Limbo Embassy visits neighbourhoods. According to Van Hoeckel, “Our Ambassadors usually ask visitors questions. For example, ‘How could refugees help you,’ instead of, ‘How can you help refugees?’”

The project just started, but debate and understanding already took place during a trial run at the De Parade theatre festival and at the Pakhuis de Zwijger cultural platform. “People were very touched by the conversations”, says Van Hoeckel. “Most people asked the Ambassador, ‘How can I help? Can I give clothes, food?’ But most refugees want to take part in society and contribute instead of relying on others.”

Typically, Van Hoeckel’s projects start with curiosity. “I constantly question myself and others, and through my work this is what I hope others will do, too.” To give an ambitious example, she intends to contact the Dutch government to propose a system for rewarding her Ambassadors. “If we can prove that this work can only be done by refugees in limbo, perhaps they will give them work visas,” says the designer. She hopes that after a year another organisation will take over the project, perhaps opening embassies up in other countries. But for the time being, you can meet In Limbo Embassy and its Ambassadors at Dutch Design Week.

In Limbo Embassy – Embassy of the Undocumented is part of the Graduation show at the Design Academy Eindhoven at:
Emmasingel 14, 3rd floor, 5611 AZ Eindhoven, The Netherlands

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