Weird & Offbeat: MBAD African Bead Museum Detroit

MBAD African Bead Museum Detroit
Weird & Offbeat: MBAD African Bead Museum Detroit – Driving through Detroit, you see a city like no other. The urban blight is widespread – be it the lonely downtown core, the wide highways with nary a car in sight, the unlit street lamps at night, and of course, the abandoned homes and businesses like the Abundant Life Christian Church. It was surely no surprise to anyone last month when it was announced that Detroit was filing for bankruptcy. Where news agencies once flocked to Detroit to photograph the city’s decay and widespread abandonment (much to the locals dismay), media is now heading there again to tell a greater story. There are many good things happening in Detroit that may surprise you.

There are those who withstood the problems that plagued the city and didn’t leave with everyone else. Take for example, Riet and Mark who run an urban farm in Brightmoor called Knuckle Head Farm. This caring and giving couple are part of community improvement initiative, Neighbors Building Brightmoor, which does things like involve troubled youth in maintaining a vegetable garden. Produce is sold at the market and profits are split with the kids. Imagine these kids actually being motivated enough to get up in the morning to do hours of hard work without being told. Take that a bit further and think about how these kids have paying jobs, when they come from several generations of unemployment. Nothing less than remarkable.

Then there are others like Tyree Guyton, who built the now internationally renowned Heidelberg Project, a huge outdoor art installation set-up in one of Detroit’s poorest neighbourhoods. People from around the world travel to Detroit just to see his work. He accomplished the impossible, attracting tourists to a bad area of town.

Weird & Offbeat: MBAD African Bead Museum Detroit

MBAD African Bead Museum Detroit
One of the more notable instances of community good is the MBAD’s African Bead Museum. A creation of artist and historian Olayami Dabls, here you can find a museum celebrating the tradition of African beads and more impressively, an outdoor art installation made from 100% recycled materials including mirrors, beads, paintings and various found objects. Says Dabls in an article on the Detroit Hub, “Everything here is made of natural material, which can’t help but appeal to your natural sense of aesthetics,” he explains.

Recommended reading: Read more about this place – give this article a read, Meet The Wise Olayami Dabls And Visit His Incredible African Bead Museum, or also this one, This Artist Took Over an Entire City Block to Build an African Bead Museum.

Dabls is known as a visual storyteller who focuses sharing his African roots and culture through his art. The museum contains bead collections, sculptures and other items. Known to be a friendly man, Dabls will also provide a tour of his studio and eagerly talk about his work.

While I didn’t tour the museum itself, I was enthralled with the exterior of the building and the outdoor art installation.

MBAD African Bead Museum Detroit: The Museum Building

MBAD African Bead Museum Detroit
The walls just outside the museum are boldly and colorfully decorate with pieces from broken mirrors. As you can see, mirror fragments play a central part in his work and can look quite stunning when the sun playfully reflects itself across the installation.

MBAD African Bead Museum Detroit

MBAD African Bead Museum Detroit: The Outdoor Art Installation

MBAD African Bead Museum Detroit
This where my friend and I spent most of our time as we explored the exhibit and took tons of photographs. There may or may not have been an extreme modelling shoot as well …

MBAD African Bead Museum Detroit
There’s a weird looking theatre setting.

MBAD African Bead Museum DetroitMBAD African Bead Museum Detroit
Even a dinner table setting with a close attention to detail like the wedding cake and “food” on the plates.

MBAD African Bead Museum DetroitMBAD African Bead Museum DetroitMBAD African Bead Museum Detroit
Then some kind of boxing ring.

MBAD African Bead Museum DetroitMBAD African Bead Museum DetroitMBAD African Bead Museum Detroit
Much like the Heidelberg Project, this house is adorned with art.

MBAD African Bead Museum DetroitMBAD African Bead Museum Detroit
MBAD African Bead Museum Detroit
This wall is also covered from head-to-toe or as Tyra Banks would say H2T.
MBAD African Bead Museum DetroitMBAD African Bead Museum Detroit
The African Bead Museum is yet another bright spot in Detroit’s urban landscape. While one can’t ignore the challenges the city faces now and going forward, any visitor to the city can certainly do their part and revel in the community good.

Have you been to MBAD African Bead Museum Detroit? Tell us about your experience in the comments below. 

Good To Know Newsletter1) Take a guided tour in Detroit:


2) Find a hotel or apartment to stay when you’re visiting Detroit:

3) If you’d rather stay at an Airbnb apartment in Detroit, first time users can use this link to get a €34 travel credit. 

4) Make your trip to this great city easier by renting a car.

5) Looking for more Detroit highlights? Check my archives or some of my favourite posts:

💖 Detroit Bookstores: John K. King Used & Rare Books – When it comes Detroit bookstores, John K. King Used & Rare bookstores is the top bookstore in the city, if not America. With more than 1,000,000 books in stock, this place is must visit for bibliophiles.

💖 Abandoned Detroit: Packard Automotive Plant – The Packard Automotive Plant in Detroit is the largest abandoned site in the world. Learn the history and see photos of this fascinating and haunting place.

💖 Photos: The Heidelberg Project in Detroit – The Heidelberg Project is a quirky, whimsical yet political outdoor art installation in a poor neighbourhood of Detroit that’s garnered international acclaim.


MBAD’S African Bead Museum
6559 Grand River Ave. Detroit, MI 48208
(313) 898-3007

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*DisclosureThis post contains some affiliate links. If you book a tour, car rental, or hotel through any of these links, I’ll earn a tiny commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks for your support!

Founder of Canadian in Berlin. Frequent traveller now at 43 countries and counting.


  1. It looks so much like Berlin, all those colours and street art. I’m surprised to see so much colours, I though Detroit was grey all over.

  2. Visiter Berlin – indeed, one is easily able to draw some comparisons between the two cities. There’s of cool things happening in Detroit – check out my post about the Heidelberg project. 🙂

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