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Why Erik Killmonger’s Scars Are So Important

Source: Marvel Cinematic Universe Wiki Page

Black Panther is not only dominating both social media and the box office, but the movie is currently making cinematic history as having the top 5th opening weekend of all time.

I recently went to Jersey Gardens’ AMC Theater and witnessed 6 theaters premiering Black Panther, all of which were sold out. This movie is making headlines everywhere for its proper representation & indulging plot. There is also a lot of talk on Twitter appreciating the actors’ beauty & talents, such as Lupita Nyong’o or Chadwick Boseman. And most celebrated is Michael B. Jordan—people are falling head-over-heels for this charming actor.

Courtesy of Gage Skidmore/Flickr

Jordan portrays Erik Killmonger, the antagonist in Black Panther. Killmonger also happens to be the cousin of the protagonist, T’Challa Udaku. Jordan’s character hatches a plan to arm oppressed natives of occupied land weapons sourced from Wakanda to fight back and overthrow the government. This obviously was a problem with T’Challa and thus started the movie’s moral conflict of good versus evil.

The movie has a lot of representational African culture embedded into it to it with its nods to fashionable neck coils and lip plates. Killmonger is a mysterious beacon of black culture, his ‘kill’ scars representing a painful, yet meaningful ritual. The tiny scars on Kilmonger’s body that represent his kills are also representative of an Oceanic cultural ritual. In Papua, New Guinea, the Chambri Tribe celebrates “manhood” with the process of scarring and infection. The ending result is having a “crocodile-like” skin that symbolizes coming of age.

Courtesy of Theory of Knowledge Online Resource

This process takes six weeks to complete at a hut separated from the villages. The initiates range from pre-teenagers to 30-something-year-olds who are not yet deemed men because of the lack of the alligator mark. The alligator scarring lets others know that they are initiated men and must be treated as such — no matter how young or old. The process involves have deep incisions made all over one’s body, including your back, chest, and arms. There is no anesthesia nor any pain relief, and one must endure tribal cutters gashing away at them. Their body is covered in blood, open wounds and excruciating pain that all symbolize the heavyweight of adulthood. Because they felt this pain during the initiation, it is thought that they will be able to endure any pain they find in the future. 

Once the cutting ends, they have to have their wounds treated by simply the touch of a feather. They then must have a controlled infection of their wounds with clay & tree oil to limit the inflammation and smoke to irritate the skin. They have to wash their open wounds every day for a week with cold water to make sure the scars come out the way you desire them. When the initiation process is over, they are celebrated with pride and joy as they have become men, and they must then be tasked with leading the tribe. Much like a headdress, these scars are a cultural significance of power, leadership, and strength.

This ritual is a somewhat perfect for Jordan’s character who had to grow up too young. When Erik found his father murdered back at the apartment, he was forced to end his childhood early and to take care of himself since nobody else would step in. The scars represent manhood, independence, and strength from the past so you can provide a better future — which is exactly what Killmonger did with himself.

He transformed himself from a street kid from Compton to a literal African King due to the power he created from his tragedy.

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