Nikita Pearl Waligwa, a 15-year-old rising star from Uganda who was featured in Disney’s “Queen of Katwe,” has died after a brain tumor diagnosis, according to local media. The 2016 film starred Waligwa alongside Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o and David Oyelowo, who described the young star as “a ball of light” in a touching Instagram post.
“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 on Instagram. “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.”
The movie would be Waligwa’s only listed credit. The film moved critics, but performed modestly at the box office.
Waligwa learned she had a brain tumor in 2016. She “made a recovery in 2017,” Deadline reported, but the tumor returned in 2018.
Mira Nair, the movie’s director, said goodbye on Twitter early Monday. “The heart breaks to see you gone, too young, too soon,” she wrote.