Nikita Pearl Waligwa, who appeared in the 2016 film “Queen of Katwe,” has died at the age of 15.
According to reports in Ugandan media, the actress had been diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2016, prompting her Disney family to mobilize funds for treatment in India. Though she made a recovery in 2017, her tumor returned the next year.
After the devastating news went viral, “Queen of Katwe” co-stars Lupita Nyong’o, who played her mother, and David Oyelowo, who played her chess teacher, paid their respects on social media.
“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.
The Oscar-winning actress continued, “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.”
Oyelowo posted on his page, “We mourn the loss of our beautiful Nikita Pearl Waligwa. 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. 💔#rip.”
In the acclaimed film, Waligwa plays the best friend of Phiona Mutesi (actress Madina Nalwanga), a real-life chess champion who grew up in the Ugandan slums.