Luma inspires audiences with African artifacts
Dr. Andrew Luma, a Palm Beach State College professor, has visited most of the 54 nations in Africa, and each time he picks up artifacts that are now part of an extensive collection that he exhibits at campus events and South Florida museums.
He uses the roughly 250-piece display, including masks, men’s and women’s attire, paintings, musical instruments, robes, kitchen utensils, spears, traditional games and more, as a tool to help educate students and others about the history of the world’s third largest continent and to share bits of his storied roots there.
“Part of the reason I’ve been collecting is because I wanted to share the artifacts with an audience in the United States, so they can better understand African history and how that ties into the African American community here,’’ said Luma, who teaches political science at the Palm Beach Gardens campus. “They all have a history to them.”
Born in Cameroon in west-central Africa, Luma began collecting at about 16 years old when he traveled throughout Africa as a track star and member of the Olympic team for his country. His success on the field took him to the Olympic Games in Montreal in 1976, but his team was summoned to return home after many African countries boycotted that year because the International Olympic Committee refused to ban New Zealand. New Zealand had been participating in rugby sporting events with South Africa, although that country had been banned from the Olympics for years because of its policy on apartheid.
Luma, the son of a traditional chief, then came to the United States in 1977 on a track scholarship to Texas Tech University, where he also was a standout, eventually earning a letter jacket from his alma mater and numerous gold medals in the Big 8 Conference. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Texas Tech and a master’s degree in political science from West Texas State University. He returned to Texas Tech, receiving a graduate assistantship while he pursued his doctorate degree in political science with specializations in international relations, American government and public administration. He shined in his doctoral program, earning best graduate student awards two years in a row.
While working on his dissertation, he was hired by Barry University as a full-time political science professor, and he also served as adjunct at Broward College. He began teaching at Palm Beach State College in 1989.
As a professor and early member of the Association of Global South Studies, formerly known as the Association of Third World studies, he continued his travels to African countries and countries around the world, and he continued collecting artifacts.
“I’ve been collecting these for a while, said Luma, who also holds several black belts in martial arts. “Every time I would go to a conference, I would bring something back. I’ve traveled very widely and broadly.
Luma recently displayed his collection at a Black History Month event at the Palm Beach Gardens campus. As in previous years, it drew a large crowd as he discussed key moments and pioneers in history, including the migration of African-Americans to the Americas and its connection to segregation and the Civil Rights Movement. “Each piece has cultural meaning,’’ he said, noting for example, that many African Americans celebrate African heritage with Kwanzaa.
Luma has also has loaned his exhibit to museums, and sometimes he displays artifacts in his classes. For his Introduction to Political Science classes, he notes Africa and other third world countries in his discussion on totalitarianism and authoritarianism government systems. “When I teach Introduction to Political Science, I talk a lot about Africa and other third world countries. Sometimes it’s difficult for students to relate. They can tie a lot of things we discuss in class to these artifacts. Many are so happy, and they are so proud of their heritage. It gives them a unique opportunity to understand their history and the dynamics of some of their history, and I’m very, very proud of it.”