Chapter 25 Summary
The most worrisome event for Kunta and the others, “the kasas boyo operation” (where the foreskin of each young man’s “foto” is removed) approaches fast. With no warning, the young men are ordered to stand at attention in their usual line. They are ordered to “hold out your fotos” as they are numbed with a green paste. Then they are sent back to their huts as the paste begins working.
To add to the young men’s terror, the fathers and uncles and other men of the village arrive for the event chanting that this “also has been done to us...all of us men together.” Then, after an entourage of fierce kankurang dancers, the boys are lined up a second time. The fathers and other men chant a further motto for the boys to become men “and life everlasting will spring from your loins.” Each young man (Kunta among them) is ordered one at a time behind a screen of woven bamboo, made to lay down and grab his thighs upward, cut on his “foto” to remove his foreskin, and forced back to the line with a cloth (stained with blood) between his legs. Still, Kunta and the others are happy: the dreaded deed has been done!
As the men begin to heal, they are joyful. They look upon their kintango with the utmost respect. They are finally referred to as “men.” A few of the men each night are asked to return to Juffare and steal all the food they can carry from their mothers’ storehouses. That food is cooked for the jujuo the next day “to prove yourselves smarter than all women, even your mother.” Ironically, the mothers would hear their sons enter their huts and beam with pride.
The kintango is now treating the young men almost as equals, explaining to them the most important qualities that a Mandinka man must possess: fearlessness and respect (for every member of the village, for the ancestors, and for Allah). Then the kintango begins to list their manly duties: to guard the village, to serve as lookouts, to protect the crops, to inspect the women’s cooking pots, and to beat the women who do not comply. They long to get even older, to become messengers and then emissaries and then elders.
Finally, the moment arrives and the long months of manhood training at the jujuo come to an end with the kintango’s latest shout: for the men of Juffare to return to their own village. They do, amid whoops of joy.