KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — A Ugandan student who played a memorable role in a 2016 Disney film about a local chess prodigy has died at the age of 15.
Nikita Pearl Waligwa died Saturday at a hospital near the Ugandan capital, Kampala.
The cause was a brain tumor, according to the girls’ secondary school she had attended since 2018.
“Queen of Katwe” followed the rise of Ugandan chess prodigy Phiona Mutesi as a chess player amid grinding poverty in the Kampala slum of Katwe.
Phiona’s friend Gloria, played by Nikita, memorably quips that in the game of chess “the small one can become the big one.”
Lupita Nyong’o, who also starred in the film, called Nikita a sweet, warm and talented girl.
“She played Gloria with such vibrancy,” Nyong’o said. “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 (peace). May it be well with her soul.”