'Queen of Katwe' actor Nikita Pearl Waligwa dead at 15, Mira Nair mourns

PTI New Delhi Feb 17, 2020, 02.23 PM(IST)

Nikita Pearl Waligwa in a still from 'Queen of Katwe' Photograph:( Twitter )

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Nikita Pearl Waligwa, who starred in the 2016 sports drama 'Queen of Katwe', has died. She was 15. Waligwa had been diagnosed with a brain tumour.

Nikita Pearl Waligwa, who starred in the 2016 sports drama 'Queen of Katwe', has died. She was 15. Waligwa had been diagnosed with a brain tumour, Deadline quoted Ugandan media.

Directed by Indian-American filmmaker Mira Nair, the Walt Disney film charted the rise of real-life chess prodigy Phiona Mutesi from a Ugandan slum. She began playing chess at the age of nine and went on to compete in international tournaments.

Nair on Monday mourned the death of the child actor who fought the "incurable disease" right till the end.

"Farewell dearest Nikita. The heart breaks to see you gone, too young, too soon. You were such a fighter but this disease was incurable. The Pioneers and the Kool Kats of Katwe will always miss you, your light lives on in #QueenOfKatwe," the director wrote on Twitter.

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Madina Nalwanga played the lead and Waligwa played Gloria, Phiona's friend who explained the rules of the game in a memorable line that in chess, "the small one can become the big one".

The film also featured Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong'o as Phiona's mother and David Oyelowo as her chess teacher.

Waligwa was initially diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2016, and her film family mobilised to get her treatment in India. She made a recovery a year later, but the tumour returned in 2019.