Why native doctors use white chalk on their eyes
The major thing that made them really identifiable was their mode of dressing that included a red attire or animal skin attire, accessories and most importantly, their eyes and bodies were decorated with white native chalk.
Native chalk is also known as nzu by the Igbos, calabash chalk in English, or ndom by the Efik/Ibibios. It is an edible clay that is found mainly in Nigeria and other West African countries. Till date, this chalk has a huge significance to tradition and most importantly to native doctors. They usually have it smeared around one or both eyes and some other parts of their bodies.
It is not only used by native doctors, but also common with diviners and priests. In Igboland, native doctors are sometimes called dibia anya nzu, meaning ‘native doctor with the eye of chalk’. The native chalk is not only applied on the eyes, but also on the feet and drawn on the ground during divinations or when calling on the gods/ancestors.
Chalk around the eyes indicates that the person who wears it has an ability to see beyond the visible world and into the world of the spirits. It is believed that the chalk also grants them access into the spirit world. For some, it is a means to commune with their ancestors. The use of native chalk by native doctors however comes with some rules. For example, the chalk has to be washed off before bed or else, the dibia will not be able to sleep and will continue communing with spirits till the next morning.
Some reports say native doctors are actually entitled to wear chalk around either one or both eyes, depending on their seniority.