Queen Of Katwe Star Nikita Pearl Waligwa Is Dead At 15

Photo: Courtesy of Queen of Katwe's Facebook.
Nikita Pearl Waligwa, the young Ugandan actress who starred in the 2016 Disney film Queen of Katwe, has died of a brain tumour. She was 15 years old.
Queen of Katwe was Waligwa’s film debut and only listed film credit. She played Gloria, a friend of protagonist Phiona Mutesi, who was played by Madina Nalwanga. 
Based on a true story, Queen of Katwe follows Phiona’s rise as a chess prodigy in a Ugandan slum, aided by Gloria and her greater community. The film also starred Lupita Nyong’o as Phiona’s mother Nakku Harriet and David Oyelowo as her teacher Robert Katende. 
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Waligwa died in a hospital in Kampala on Saturday, according to the BBC. Queen of Katwe director Mira Nair reportedly raised funds to help get Waligwa treatment in India, since Ugandan doctors said they did not have the necessary equipment. She was first diagnosed in 2016 and was cleared to return to school in 2017, but a new tumour was discovered last year.
Waligwa’s death was announced on Sunday by Gayaza High School, where she was a student. The news was shared on the high school’s official Twitter account.
“Fare thee well Nikita Pearl Waligwa,” the school wrote. “You were a darling to many and we have lost you to brain tumour at such a tender age.”
“We are gutted as @gayazahigh community,” the school later tweeted. “No words can explain the pain at the moment. R.I.P Nikita.”
Nyong’o posted about Waligwa’s death on Sunday, as well. “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,” Nyong’o wrote on Instagram. “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.”
Oyelowo also shared his condolences on Instagram. “We mourn the loss of our beautiful Nikita Pearl Waligwa,” he wrote. “She was a ball of light in @queenofkatwemovie and in life. Her battle with a brain tumor was humbling to witness. Her light will live on.”
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