Nikita Pearl Waligwa, a young actress who starred in the Queen of Katwe alongside Lupita Nyongo’o in a Disney film about a chess prodigy from a Ugandan slum, has passed away at the young age of 15.
Nikita Pearl Waligwa reportedly was diagnosed with a brain tumour which she has been battling for some years now.
She was famous for the 2016 film Queen of Katwe, a movie based on the true story of Phiona Mutesi, who took up chess aged nine despite not being in school and went on to compete in international tournaments.
The film starred Lupita Nyong’o as her mother and David Oyelowo as her chess teacher.
The young actress played the role of Gloria, a friend of Phiona who explained the rules of chess to her in the movie.
Waligwa was first diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2016 and Queen of Katwe director Mira Nair reportedly mobilised people to help fund her treatment in India, with Ugandan doctors quoted as saying they did not have the necessary equipment.
She was given the all-clear in 2017 after a successful operation, but in 2019, another tumour was found, and this time she wasn’t able to beat it.
Lupita Nyong’o took to her Instagram to confirm the sadness, calling Waligwa, sweet, warm and talented.
View this post on Instagram
It is with great sadness that I post about the passing of Nikita Waligwa, the sweet, warm, talented girl whom I worked with on the film, Queen Of Katwe. She played Gloria with such vibrancy. In her real life she had the enormous challenge of battling brain cancer. My thoughts and prayers are with her family and community as they come to terms with having to say goodbye so soon. May she truly rest in peace. May it be well with her soul.
Davido Oyewole shared the same photo on Instagram to express his sadness, calling Waligwa a ball of light in #queenofkatwemovie and in life.