Olayami Dabls is the hoods greatest Gem!

Olayami Dabls has built a community based around his profound and very unique style of art and wisdom; he has a voice that never stops giving knowledge of the African people.

The broken mirror pieces are carefully placed on the buildings in order to muse with the art that surrounds the MBAD’s African Bead Museum; this offers a reflection of the African Culture.

You can see the African Bead Museum from miles away and as you drive down I-96 you have a clear chance of seeing the visually stunning buildings that lay smack in the middle of what some may call “the hood”.

One of the few neighborhoods in Detroit that hasn’t been affected by gentrification and Olayami Dabls works hard to keep it that way. Dabls is the founder of one of the only African cultural based institutions in Detroit.

Photo of Olayami Dabls by: http://www.mbad.org

Raised in Mississippi, Dabls began to realize at a young age, the injustice of African American people in the South. So he decided to move to Detroit to become a mechanical engineer and but was later injured in an accident that left him out of work. This is what inspired him to embrace his creativity and make a bigger statement in the community with his art.  

MBAD was founded in 1985 by Olayami Dabls and S. Jill Miller. The establishment was incorporated in the State of Michigan in 1996 by seven other Africans in the city who all play an important role in the elevation of the African culture.

Dabls is the one you will find in the museum putting in work to keep the place vibrant and up to date with art, beads, beadworks, textiles, sculptures and other culture relics from around the world that line the space in a beautiful sequence both inside and out.  

Dabls is an organic artist that naturally produces art that he hopes moves his people and others that come out to visit the space; in hopes that they walk away with more knowledge than they came with.

Dabls doesn’t only work as the museums main man he also is a “fine” artist in the streets and has lectured about African Material Cultural for over thirty years. He has won many awards and grants such as the Kresge and Knight Foundations grant where he plans to put the money towards the renovations needed to assure the longevity of MBAD. All of the art created at the museum Dabls has created or has had some type of influence on. Acting as a visual story teller he uses a beautiful range of materials such as wood, mirrors, beads and iron to tell stories of the African people.

One of the struggles Dabls mentions is  how government funding could be tricky so he doesn’t depend on the money from the outside sources because it limits his vision and sometimes makes others feel in control of what he creates. He just hopes that people with money naturally find it vital to support the museum both physically and financially.

“I just want people to appreciate the space for what it is” Dabls says.

Dabls never thought the space would be such a gem for the city to have and hold for as long as he lives. He made it very clear that once he transitions back into the cycle of life and death that he expects the museum to over time disintegrate. He uses materials especially for that purpose. It will forever live on in the souls of people who are honored enough to share the history and knowledge.