Nikita Pearl Waligwa, who played Gloria in the 2016 Disney film Queen of Katwe, has died at 15.
Her death was announced by Ugandan media, who confirmed that Waligwa died Saturday night in Uganda as a result of a brain tumor. She was first diagnosed in 2016.
Queen of Katwe is based on the true story of Ugandan woman Phiona Mutesi, whose life changed when she took up the game of chess and, despite not being in school, became so successful that she became a chess player on the international stage. The film also starred Lupita Nyong'o as her mother and David Oyelowo as her chess teacher. Waligwa played Mutesi’s friend.
Tributes to Waligwa have been cropping up across social media. Gayaza High School, where Waligwa was a student, called her “a darling to many.”
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. Nikita was in S.3. Rest in Perfect Peace dear pic.twitter.com/ny8I9YAjsQ— Gayaza High School (@gayazahigh) February 16, 2020
Co-star Oyelowo shared his grief in an Instagram post writing, “She was a ball of light.”
Fans also took to social media to express their condolences. “RIP young queen,” wrote one fan; others reflected on how her death touched the entire nation of Uganda. “Uganda is grieving,” a commenter wrote.
It is sad news to the country at large to loose a talent at such a tender age. Nikita Pearl Waligwa acted in a movie " Queen of Katwe" succumbed to brain cancer at the age of 15. RIP young lady. pic.twitter.com/C8KraWTZZK— Gerald Johns Luyima (@luyima_gerald) February 16, 2020
According to Ugandan paper the Daily Monitor, Queen of Katwe director Mira Nair tried to raise funds to bring Waligwa to Nair’s home country of India for treatment, as Ugandan doctors were quoted as saying “they did not have the necessary equipment.” Waligwa will be laid to rest on Monday.
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