On Saturday, February 15, 15-year-old Disney actress Nikita Pearl Waligwa was reported to have passed away by the Ugandan school where she was a student, according to CNN. The cause of death was a brain tumor.
The teenager starred in the 2016 Disney film Queen of Katwe alongside actresses Madina Nalwanga and Lupita Nyong’o and actor David Oyelowo. The movie told the true story of Phiona Mutesi (played by Ugandan actress Madina Nalwanga), a Ugandan girl living in a slum in Katwe, who learns to play chess and goes on to become an international chess prodigy. Nikita played Phiona’s friend Gloria in the film.
The young actress’s school Gayaza High School took to popular social media site Twitter on Saturday to reveal the news of her passing.
“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.”
The message accompanied a photo of Nikita as she stood outside the school in her white dress uniform flashing a huge smile for the camera.
The actress was first diagnosed with the brain tumor in 2016. After Ugandan doctors revealed that they wouldn’t be able to properly treat Nikita, Queen of Katwe director Mira Nair reportedly tried to raise funds to have her treated in India, according to the BBC. After receiving the all-clear in 2017, doctors found another brain tumor last year.
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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 piece. May it be well with her soul.
Lupita Nyong’o, who played Phiona’s mother in the movie, also wrote a tribute for the young actress on social media platform Instagram. In a touching caption accompanying a photo of Nikita’s character Gloria, Lupita wrote that she was incredibly saddened to hear of Nikita’s passing and that she remembers the actress as a sweet, warm, and talented girl. Lupita added that Nikita played Gloria with vibrancy and that her thoughts and prayers are with Nikita’s family and community.
In the photo accompanying Lupita’s sweet message, Gloria is photographed holding up two black chess pieces. A quote from the character is written in white over the photo that reads, “In chess, the small one can become the big one.”
The Black Panther actress received many comments from her followers on her tribute to Nikita, most of whom expressed their sorrow at hearing of the actress’s passing and sent prayers and love to her family and loved ones.
“This is terrible news. Loved her and loved the film,” one follower wrote.