Nzu is white clay, also known as calabash chalk in Igboland and Ima Nzu refers to the act of smearing the white chalk or clay on your wrist or neck. However the culture is peculiar to some Igbo people not all. Item people in the Bende Local Government Area of Abia State is among the Igbo people that holds this culture in very high esteem.
Nzu symbolizes purity, peace and acceptance for Item people and so Ima Nzu is the first thing that a host offers to a guest to show the purity of their heart, peace and acceptance towards them. The guest in turn touches the white clay and smears on his or her wrist or neck showing his or she is receptive of the gesture. The guest is at peace and free as soon he or she performs the ima nzu tradition.
Nzu is also used when announcing and celebrating the birth of a new child. In Igboland when a child is born women dance and smear nzu all over themselves as they rejoice and this is called “uma nwa” in Item language.
In Item everybody practices the culture both Christians and heathens as there is no fetish practice attached to it in this modern day, even though I cannot say for sure if it was the case in the olden days. Nowadays most people uses white powder to represent the nzu in most places for both the ima nzu and uma nwa.
So the next time you go to any of the towns that this is practiced in Igboland and you are offered the nzu please receive it and smear it to show that you are receptive of your host gesture and that you come in peace. There is no superstition attached to it as it is just a mere clay or white powder symbolizing peace in a peoples culture
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