Nikita Pearl Waligwa: Queen of Katwe stars pay tribute

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By BBC Africa 

Stars of the film Queen of Katwe have paid tribute to actress Nikita Pearl Waligwa who has died at the age of 15.

Waligwa had been diagnosed with a brain tumour and died in hospital in Kampala on Saturday.

She starred in the 2016 Disney film which was based on the true story of Phiona Mutesi, a chess prodigy from a Ugandan slum.

Her co-star David Oyelowo wrote on Instagram: "She was a ball of light in Queen of Katwa and in life."

He played the role of Phiona Mutesi's chess teacher while Lupita Nyong'o played her mother.

 

Waligwa featured as the character Gloria, a friend of Phiona who explained the rules of chess to her.

Ms Nyong'o said on Instagram: "She played Gloria with such vibrancy. In her real life she had the enormous challenge of battling brain cancer."

Gloria Nansubuga, the 19-year-old Ugandan chess star who was played by Waligwa, told the BBC: "I couldn't bear to hear that someone who acted as me in a film had died. I loved her from my heart.

"She told me she wanted to learn how to play chess. I wanted to have lessons with her but she was always in hospital. She was so caring even though she was so young."

 

Waligwa was first diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2016 and Queen of Katwe director Mira Nair reportedly mobilised people to help fund her treatment in India, with Ugandan doctors quoted as saying they did not have the necessary equipment.

In Uganda, only a fraction of patients with such serious conditions get the medical help they need due to costs.

She was given the all-clear in 2017 and went back to secondary school. However, last year, she was found to have another tumour.

"You were a darling to many and we have lost you to a brain tumour at such a tender age," Gayaza High School said.

The funeral service for Waligwa was held on Sunday, and she will be buried later on Monday.

 

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