Disney's 'Queen of Katwe' actor Nikita Pearl Waligwa dies at 15

Waligwa had been diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2016 and seemed to recover a year later. However, in 2019, another tumor was found.
Image: Nikita Pearl Waligwa in Disney's "Queen of Katwe."
Nikita Pearl Waligwa in Disney's "Queen of Katwe."Disney

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By Variety

Nikita Pearl Waligwa, an actor who appeared in Disney's biographical drama "Queen of Katwe," has died, according to BBC and the Ugandan newspaper Daily Monitor. She was 15.

Waligwa had been diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2016 and seemed to recover a year later. However, in 2019, another tumor was found. "Queen of Katwe" director Mira Nair helped organize efforts to fund Waligwa's treatment during filming, according to BBC.

The young actor played a girl named Gloria in "Queen of Katwe." She was a close friend of main character Phiona Mutesi (Madina Nalwanga), and taught her how to play chess. The film told the real-life story of Mutesi who is one of Uganda's most successful chess players. She won three Ugandan Women's Junior Championship and has represented the country at four international chess olympiads.

Lupita Nyong'o and David Oyelowo also starred in the film. They played Mutesi's mother and chess teacher.

Waligwa was in her senior year at Gayaza High School at the time of her death.