Because of the internet I know many things about the graphic artist DJ Ndebele. I know he’s not a DJ, nor is he from the Ndebele tribe. I know that despite not being a DJ he has an Afro-house set on SoundCloud, that he makes prints on metal and wood and shows them around southern California, and that he designs t-shirts for his brand Timbuktu State.
But when I look at Ndebele’s graphic prints it’s the limits of my knowledge that suddenly seem the most salient. It’s not quite the feeling of not knowing enough, but more that no matter how much I know it won’t quite matter to understanding this artist’s work.
Take his recent piece, “The People’s Body Shop,” which he showed at the 2013 Pan-African Film Festival in Los Angeles. The piece uses an abstract design of circles and angles to focus attention on an image, apparently reproduced from a photo, of a person’s scarred back. The image reveals four or maybe six double rows of raised dots, curving from the small of the back up over the shoulders; there are also two parallel lines cut in a V shape between the shoulder blades.