Ugandan Actress in Disney’s Queen of Katwe Passes Away at 15

Young African actress Nikita Pearl Waligwa, who starred in Disney’s Queen of Katwe, has tragically passed away in Uganda at the age of just 15.

nikita pearl waligwa
Nikita Pearl Waligwa Photo: DisInsider

According to international reports, she had been suffering from brain cancer. She was first diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2016, but thanks to Queen of Katwe’s director Mira Nair and a crowd funding initiative, Nikita underwent medical treatment (radiotherapy) in India and was given the all-clear a year later. Sadly, a new tumour was discovered last year (2019).

The teenager died last night – Saturday 15 Feb – at TMR International Hospital in Naalya, Kampala, according to reports in Uganda.

Her high school tweeted: “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.”


Waligwa rose to international fame in the 2016 film starring Oscar-winning Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o and David Oyelowo, based on the true story of Ugandan chess prodigy Phiona Mutesi. Against all odds, Phiona – who wasn’t at school and came from the slums – learnt to play chess at nine and went on to compete in international tournaments.

Nikita starred as Gloria, Phiona’s best friend who taught her how to play chess.