Nikita Pearl Waligwa, The Queen Of Katwe Teen Actor, Has Died At Age 15

Ugandan Actress Nikita Pearl Waligwa, who starred in the Disney film Queen of Katwe, died Saturday after being diagnosed with a brain tumor. She was 15 years old.

The 2016 film was based on the story of a chess prodigy Phiona Mutesi, who learned how to play chess as a young child from a poor neighborhood in Kampala, Uganda, and went on to win tournaments around the world.

The Twitter account of the Gayaza High School, the secondary school that Waligwa attended, announced her death Sunday.

“Fare thee well Nikita Pearl Waligwa. You were a darling to many and we have lost you to brain tumor at such a tender age,” the tweet read.

“Rest in Perfect Peace dear.”

Lupita Nyong’o, who played Mutesi’s mother in the movie, posted a heartfelt tribute 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,” Nyong’o wrote.

“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.”

Waligwa was first diagnosed with a tumor in 2016, according to the BBC. Queen of Katwe director Mira Nair had organized funds to treat Waligwa and she was recovering in 2017 until another tumor was detected in her last year.

  • Lam Thuy Vo is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

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