'Queen of Katwe' star Nikita Pearl Waligwa succumbs to brain tumour at 15; Mira Nair, Lupita Nyong'o mourn death
Uganda's oldest Gayaza High School, where Waligwa studied, also paid tribute.
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Waligwa had been diagnosed with a brain tumour, Deadline quoted Ugandan media.
Directed by Indian-American filmmaker Mira Nair, the Walt Disney film charted the rise of real-life chess prodigy Phiona Mutesi from a Ugandan slum. She began playing chess at the age of nine and went on to compete in international tournaments.
Nair on Monday mourned the death of the child actor who fought the "incurable disease" right till the end.
Farewell dearest Nikita. The heart breaks to see you gone, too young, too soon. You were such a fighter but this di… https://t.co/9LUB2H6Pz3— Mira Nair (@MiraPagliNair) 1581923092000
Madina Nalwanga played the lead and Waligwa played Gloria, Phiona's friend who explained the rules of the game in a memorable line that in chess, "the small one can become the big one".
Lupita Nyong'o also took to Instagram to bid farewell to the ' warm and talented girl' who played Gloria in 'Queen of Katwe'.
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 piece. May it be well with her soul.
Uganda's oldest and one of the country's leading Gayaza High School, where Waligwa studied, also paid a tribute to the child star with a Twitter post.
Fare thee well Nikita Pearl Waligwa. You were a darling to many and we have lost you to brain tumor at such a tende… https://t.co/Q9wzEBvIBD— Gayaza High School (@gayazahigh) 1581836742000
The film also featured Academy Award-winner Nyong'o as Phiona's mother and David Oyelowo as her chess teacher.
Waligwa was initially diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2016, and her film family mobilised to get her treatment in India. She made a recovery a year later, but the tumour returned in 2019.