The South Orange/Maplewood Community Coalition on Race has partnered with local visual and performing artist Ahmondylla Best to launch the 2016 Shekere Maker Project. The inaugural series will enable residents to learn the unique process of making a West African shekere instrument from start to finish, as well as how to play it. The experience will come full circle for the students on Saturday, July 16, at the XRootsFest in South Orange, where they will be invited to play their instrument during a drum circle.

“The free Shekere Maker workshops are part of our 2016 Integration through the Arts program, which establishes quality art experiences for residents and collaborative associations with professional artists,” said Audrey Rowe, Program Director, South Orange/Maplewood Community Coalition on Race. “In addition, it creates a platform that fosters interactions between our culturally and socially diverse neighbors.”

Best is a world-renowned percussionist who has performed in Africa, Europe, and across the U.S. and has designed shekeres for colleges and art organizations, such as Williams College and The New Jersey Performing Arts Center. During the Shekere Maker workshop, she will teach students how to clean out their own California-grown gourd and create a colorful skirt design with beads and netting. Best will also lead participants through basic hand positioning and finger movements used to play the instrument Nigerian style. Together, they will create a composition that will be shared during the XRootsFest drum circle, which is open to the community.

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“Making the shekere instrument not only leaves you with something beautiful, but also allows you to express yourself through the process, which involves hand-eye coordination and creativity and further develops fine motor skills,” shared Best.

Please register to participate in the Shekere Maker workshop, as space is limited. Classes will be held at the Baird Center Craft Room at 5 Mead Street, South Orange, on the following Tuesdays from 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm: May 17, May 24, May 31 and June 15.

Interested adult residents of South Orange and Maplewood are invited to register by completing the Contact Us form on the website and typing “Shekere” in the body of the message or by calling 973-761-6116. To learn more, please go to


South Orange/Maplewood Community Coalition on Race        

The South Orange/Maplewood Community Coalition on Race is a nationally recognized non-profit organization committed to building a unique, suburban community that is free of racial segregation in housing patterns and community involvement. The Coalition was founded in 1996 by a diverse group of citizens concerned about stagnating property values and a perceived decline in the quality of local public schools. Twenty years later, the Coalition has developed programs that promote the advantages of living in a racially inclusive community where all aspects of community life are integrated. To learn more about the Coalition and how you can get involved, go to and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.