Nikita Pearl Waligwa, who starred in the 2016 Disney film Queen of Katwe, has died. According to Ugandan newspaper The Daily Monitor, the young actress passed away at the age of 15 after having been diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2016. Her death was confirmed Sunday by her school, Gayaza High School, which remembered her as "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
Waligwa was best known for her role in Queen of Katwe, in which she portrayed a young chest prodigy from a Ugandan slum in the film, which was based on the true story of Phiona Mutesi. The film was released in 2016, the same year that the actress had been diagnosed with a brain tumor.
After Ugandan doctors explained that they did not have the necessary equipment to treat the tumor, Queen of Katwe director Mira Nair reportedly helped raise funds for her treatment in India. Although she recovered and was given the all-clear just a year later, her tumor reportedly returned last year.
Following news of her death, many of Waligwa's Queen of Katwe co-stars have taken to social media to pay their respects, including Lupita Nyong'o, who portrayed Mutesi's mother.
"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," Nyong'o wrote. "She played Gloria with such vibrancy."
"In her real life she had the enormous challenge of battling brain cancer," she continued. "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."
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Sharing the same image, David Oyelowo, who portrayed Mutesi's chess coach, wrote that "we mourn the loss of our beautiful Nikita Pearl Waligwa."
"She was a ball of light in Queen of Katwe and in life," he added. "Her battle with a brain tumor was humbling to witness. Her light will live on."