ISBN: 0-916418-93-6, $12



Armor and Flesh is Mendi Lewis Obadike's first book. This book was awarded the 2004 Naomi Long Madgett Poetry Award. It is published by Lotus Press. The cover image for the book was painted by Iona Rozeal Brown.


"Mendi Obadike pares her poems down to the stark, dark places where self and selves unfurl, confront, and recombine. She understands the art of distillation, both formal and emotional. Yet there is nothing reserved in these rich poems, which emanate from a deep understanding of unsentimental, polyphonic human complexity."

- Elizabeth Alexander

"These cleanly-wrought poems turn the world upside down, inside out. They confirm that nothing is simple. Flesh is complex, relentless in its appearance and changes. Like language (and the glad amazement in the sweat and tears of others) flesh could not long survive without the intricate armor of luck, imagination, and grace, which are the poet's special province."

- Houston A. Baker Jr.

"Language clean as a scalpel opens you to worlds of mysterious, powerful, terrifying life like a surgeon opens the body and reveals the great rivers inside."

- Toi Derricotte

Phonotype is a collection
of Mendi + Keith's writings
on media art and a CD
of sound art
published by
Ramapo College.


Four Electric Ghosts
the story, documents from related
side projects, and images from the
production process of Mendi +
Keith's opera-maquerade entitled
Four Electric Ghosts.It is published
by 1913 Press with support from
Princeton University. more info on
the project.

Praise for Four Electric Ghosts

"[Four Electric Ghosts speaks] in a fabulist way from the deep, secret interior of our imaginations and subconscious . . . What more could we ask for from a night at the theatre than Dance, Music, Sex, Romance, Mysticism, and a newfangled notion of Global Village Literature?" 

--Greg Tate, cultural critic and director, Burnt Sugar the Arkestra Chamber

"hauntingly beautiful and progressive" 

--Angelique V. Nixon, Conscious Vibration

In this multimedia performance . . . all was sung / told / danced in the style of Grace Jones, June Tyson and Laurie Anderson, TV on The Radio, Takashi Murakami and the Urban Bush Women. My jaw

was on the floor. 

-- Vijay Iyer, Artforum's Best of The Year Issue

"[T]his was one of the freshest and most interesting performances I've caught in years . . . a vision about new ways of thinking about living and learning and a vivid, veritable (Afro-Diasporic-)futurist parable."  

--John Keene,  J's Theater

"Mendi + Keith Obadike's Four Electric Ghosts redefines the word 'electrifying,' fusing spirit and technology in an enchanting postmodern myth. Their retro-futurist assemblage of story and song, music and movement short-circuits the gap between tradition and modernity in an enthralling contemporary black aesthetic. They give us an original and resonant vision of a world where Tutuola and Iwatani meet and groove." — 

Tavia Nyong'o, New York University


Big House / Disclosure is an
intermedia suite commissioned by
Northwestern University and published
by 1913 press. This book and CD project
collection of performance scores,
poems and public interviews from the
project. The CD contains excerpts
from the public sound installation
and a performance of grapic scores
included in the book. more info on the

Praise for Big House / Disclosure

Big House/Disclosure reaches into the far recesses of our social and cultural attics to reveal what has been lost. Mendi + Keith Obadike's measured and assured tracings of a house not only reveals its repressed and complex history, but acknowledges the deep impact of that unspoken narrative upon our collective psyche. Through the combined use of graphic scores, instructions for actions, photography, performance and sound works, these talented artists not only elucidate the ghostly remains of history, but do so using a  language capable of enabling the inanimate corners of a Big House to speak of the unspeakable.

 -- Valerie Cassel Oliver, Senior Curator Contemporary Arts Museum Houston

These brilliantly conceived performance texts and artifacts pointedly personalize the consequences of our unreflective everyday investments in oppression. Here, the viewer-auditor experiences an interactive artwork that is not just of the moment, but embeds us in our painful political pasts. As the chickens are herded home to roost, we can either hide in the Big House after the fashion of Hitchcock’s Birds, or we can prepare to make full Disclosure.

-- George E. Lewis, author of A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music


Big House / Disclosure is a multisensory compendium of the arts and sciences that evokes the communal agency which harbored the emerging power of hoodoo within the insular world of the Black Atlantic. Mendi and Keith Obadike both recover and reenact faceted dimensions of this conjure universe permeated by the tincture of manifold American avant-garde traditions.  The voices of Zora Neale Hurston, Yoko Ono, Sun Ra, George Crumb, Anthony Braxton and High John the Conqueror appear as remedial folk instruction manuals for dealing with the haunting complexities of our contemporary experience. When read and heard cover-to-cover & beginning to end, one longs to witness this operatic magnum opus performed in its entirety.

-- Terry Adkins, Professor of Fine Arts University of Pennsylvania


Mendi + Keith Obadike are 21st century sonic griots channeling spirits worthy of the great poet Larry Neal’s Bebop Ghosts and the interplanetary rhythms of Sun Ra and Pharoah Sanders. The richness of their references – from the nsibidi script of ancient Nigeria to oral histories from modern day Chicago – reminds us of the sacredness of the quotidian and animates the relentless admonitions of human ancestors who refuse to be silenced.  Replete with nuance and wit, Big House / Disclosure is both elegy and praise song to enslaved Africans whose lives and losses speak to us across continents and across the centuries.  Through word, image, performance and sound the Obadikes lead us on a journey that is fluid and fluent, gloriously unpredictable, endlessly inventive and engaging. In so doing, they map a territory of imagination and history that leaves the traveler breathless – and forever grateful.

-- Kinshasha Holman Conwill



Keith Obadike composed a companion soundscape for Armor and Flesh entitled SOFTSHELL. It can be ordered from

 Phonotype Book Cover

 4EG Book Cover

Big House Book Cover