African Bead Museum

 Posted by on July 25, 2017
Jul 252017

Dabls’ MBAD African Bead Museum
6559 Grand River Avenue
Detroit, Michigan

Dabbles African Bead Museum

*African Bead Museum

I had the absolute privilege to speak with Olayami Dabls, the creator of Dabls’ African Bead Museum (pictured above), and he told me some of his story.  He began this project during the Clean Up Detroit program, a project to help clear all of the empty lots of the trash and building parts left after many homes were bulldozed.

This house, now in the hands of an architect, was once owned by the City.

The N’kisi Iron House, now in the hands of an architect, was once owned by the City.

The African Language Wall

The African Language Wall

He repeated often, how he was surprised the city had not shut him down and how happy he was to just keep doing what he was doing.  He did point out that an architect had purchased the building next door from the city. Olayami offered to remove all the art, the architect was happy with it just the way it is, and I for one am very glad that he saw the value in what this folk art brings to this part of town. I highly doubt the city is going to stop him anytime soon as the museum has received a $100,000 grant from theKnight Foundation . If you are interested in helping with matching funds you can do so here.

African Bead Museum

Photo from African Bead Museum website

There is a very complete bead shop on the first floor of 6559 for shopping to your heart’s content.

African Bead MuseumOlayami Dabls’ visual story telling uses a wide range of materials. His work uses references from African material culture to tell stories about the human condition. Using iron, rock,  wood, and mirrors, Dabls found that these four materials are primary building blocks that speak universally to all cultures.

The audience watches

“Yeah, the students are made out of rocks. The exhibit is Iron Teaching Rocks How to Rust.  And, of course, rocks cannot rust, but you can teach people to believe pretty much anything you want them to believe. And they will.” Olayami Dbals.  From an interview to Michigan Radio

The teacher


A mad hatter's tea party?

A mad hatter’s tea party?

Detroits African Bead Museum
Dabls moved to Detroit with his parents from Mississippi because of the political and social unrest in the South during the 60s.

“In the years between 1975-1985, Dabls joined the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History as a curator and artist-in-residence. There, he learned how challenging it was to talk about the civil rights movement because in talking about emotionally charged history, there is no fixed perspective, only the memories, and experiences of millions of individuals. This inspired him to create the African Bead Museum as a space for communal understanding through his own sculptures and his collection of African material culture.”

African Bead Museum Detroit

*African Bead Museum

*African Bead Museum in Detroit

*African Bead Museum of Detroit

*African Bead Museum in Detroit

*African Bead Museum

Thank you Olayami Dabls for bringing such beauty and brightness to a small corner of Detroit.

For those of you that are curious, and have gotten to this point and wondered, MBAD are the initials of Olayami’s children.  Their names are: Makada, Barkan, Alake and Davida, and please, forgive me all four of you if I have spelled them wrong.