Bead Museum is One of Detroit’s Hidden Gems

February 8, 2016  |   Story by Lori Bremerkamp  |   Photos by Bill Bowen

Pay a visit to Dabls MBAD African Bead Museum and discover hidden art within the city. You’ll find sculptures, textiles, pottery and, of course, beads (some dating back hundreds of years!) from cultures throughout Africa.


How it Came to be

Owner/curator Olayami Dabls founded the museum in 1985. A former artist-in-residence at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History and a founding member of the African American Sports Hall of Fame, Dabls aimed to create a center of African history and culture and he has.

What there is to See

The museum has had several city locations, including spaces in the Book Tower and the David Whitney Building. Today, it is part of a sprawling outdoor art installation in a 17,500-sq.-ft. building near Grand River Avenue and West Grand Boulevard.

But these beads aren’t simply jewelry: In African culture, beads were used as a language that could be read without anyone saying anything. Inside, the walls are covered with thousands of strands of African beads, mostly displayed in loops or in jars on shelves. The beads are typically made of stone, bone, wood and glass and depending on size, color and arrangement can signify a range of meanings, from magical powers to heritage and history.

In addition, the museum offers an antique bookstore, an art gallery and displays three outdoor public art installations: Iron Teaching Rocks How to Rust, The N’Kisi Iron House and the African Language Wall.

The area near the museum also includes impossible-to-miss buildings covered in brightly colored tiles and pieces of mirrors, along with a sculpture garden made out of reclaimed materials and traditional African statues.

Dabls himself hosts museum tours by appointment during normal business hours, which are Monday through Saturday from noon to 7 p.m.



Read more about Detroit museums.

Mentioned Attractions And Venues
  1. Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History
    315 E. Warren Ave., Detroit, MI 48202313-494-5800 Highlight on map | More Details
  2. Dabls Mbad African Bead Museum
    6559 Grand River Ave, Detroit, MI 48204, United States313-898-3007 Highlight on map | More Details