Queen of Katwe Actor Nikita Pearl Waligwa Is Dead at 15

Queen of Katwe Actor Nikita Pearl Waligwa Is Dead at 15
Screenshot: (Disney)

Nikita Pearl Waligwa, a Ugandan actor who appeared in Disney’s 2016 Mira Nair-directed film Queen of Katwe, has died. She was 15.

The New York Times reports that the cause was brain cancer. Waligwa had been diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2016, and after a brief recession, doctors found the cancer had spread. Waligwa’s school, Gayaza High School in Kampala, Uganda, announced her death on Twitter on Sunday.

Queen of Katwe starred Lupita Nyong’o, David Oyelowo, and Madina Nalwanga, the latter of whom portrayed real-life protagonist Phiona Mutesi, who helps her family break out of poverty in Kampala by playing competitive chess. Waligwa portrayed Gloria, Phiona’s friend who helped teach her how to play the game. The film was based on a 2011 ESPN article about Mutesi, who has since represented Uganda at multiple chess olympiads.

BBC reports that Nair had tried to crowdfund Waligwa’s medical treatment in India, after Ugandan doctors said they lacked the equipment necessary to eradicate her brain tumor.

Nyong’o posted a tribute to Waligwa on Instagram on Sunday:

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