Nikita Pearl Waligwa, the child star, died on Saturday. She was 15.
The Disney actress was best known for her portrayal as Gloria Nansubuga in 2016’s Queen of Katwe. She played the best friend of Phioa Mutesi (Madina Nalwanga) — the Ugandan chess prodigy whom the film was based upon.
Waligwa’s school, Gayaza High School, tweeted the news on early Sunday morning, confirming she lost a lengthy battle with brain cancer. School officials wrote:
“Fare thee well Nikita Pearl Waligwa. You were a darling to many and we have lost you to a brain tumour at such a tender age. Rest in perfect peace, dear.”
Waligwa was first diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2016 and was given the all-clear in 2017 after beating it.
She returned to the Kampala hospital late last year after a second diagnosis. She died at the hospital over the weekend, according to the BBC.
Lupita Nyong’o — who co-starred as Mutesi’s mother in the popular Disney film — paid tribute to Waligwa in a heartfelt Instagram post on Sunday speaking fondly of the young entertainer.
Nyong’o, 36, described her as a “sweet, warm” and “talented girl.”
“She played Gloria with such vibrancy,” she wrote, adding, “In her real life, she had the enormous challenge of battling brain cancer. May she truly rest in peace. May it be well with her soul.”
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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 peace. May it be well with her soul.
Additionally, fellow Queen of Katwe actor David Oyelowo said “she was a ball of light.”
“Her battle with a brain tumour was humbling to witness. Her light will live on,” he wrote on Instagram.
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Upon news of hearing about Waligwa’s death, the real-life Nansubuga spoke to the BBC, saying “I couldn’t bear to hear that someone who acted as me in a film had died. I loved her from my heart. She was so caring even though she was so young,” she added.
Nansubuga revealed that Waligwa had asked her for chess lessons after being inspired by Mutesi and the Queen of Katwe.
According to the outlet, a funeral service for Waligwa was held on Sunday.
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