Detroit Bead Museum Honors African Culture

The N’kisi House – Dabls Mbad African Bead Museum, Detroit, Michigan – Photo:

The outskirts of Detroit, Michigan, have experienced a lot of upheaval over the years. However, Dabls Mbad African Bead Museum helps to offset these struggles and bring joy to the area.

This museum is owned and run by Olayami Dabls. With over 45 years of visual storytelling under his belt, Dabls uses four distinct materials (iron, rocks, wood, and mirrors) that African people knew they had magic and medicine powers to create stunning works of art, including a massive sculpture park located right outside the museum’s door. The sculpture garden houses 18 outdoor installations, the African Language Wall, N’kisi House, and the African Bead Gallery.

Dabls opened the museum back in 2002, converting an old rowhouse into an impressive structure that now consumes an entire neighborhood block. He had been collecting African beads since the 1980s, and he needed a place to showcase them.

Since its founding, the museum has stood in stark contrast to the grey, dingy buildings surrounding it. With its brightly colored exterior and the intriguing sculptures set up out front, it can be jarring at first. However, it also does an excellent job at catching people’s attention and drawing them in.

In an interview with Roadtrippers magazine, Dabls said that this is exactly what he wants. He added that visitors come to check out the museum at all times, even late at night, because “nothing has ever happened,” and the community has “embraced” the museum and its mission to inspire.

All it takes is to look at the sculpture garden outside the museum and understand why people want to take a look around. Furthermore, once you’ve entered the museum, you definitely won’t want to leave.

Inside, visitors meet with an array of beads coming from all angles. They hang from the walls, dangle from the ceiling, and sit in glass jars on tables. Practically every inch of the museum is covered in beads, and there’s plenty to take in while visiting.

The museum is currently open from 12 pm to 7 pm Monday through Saturday. Those who don’t want to or are unable to travel can also take a virtual tour online.