16 years ago Olayami Dabls came to the corner of Grand River and West Grand Blvd with a vision to create a space for his community to understand the immense power of their African heritage.
Occupying almost an entire city block, the MBAD African Bead Museum houses 18 outdoor installations as well as the African Bead Gallery, N'kisi House and African Language Wall. Born of his own visual cosmology, Dabls' MBAD African Bead Museum is a quiet revolution that sparks a vital conversation with global and local audiences.
Olayami Dabls has worked as a visual story teller using a wide range of materials for more than 45 years. 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.
In the years between 1975-1985, Dabls joined the first African American History Museum in the state, and the second in the country, 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.