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International film stars mourn Nikita

Nikita Pearl Waliga

Several international film stars have eulogised Nikita Pearl Waligwa, the young actor who succumbed to a brain tumour over the weekend. 

Hollywood star Ms Lupita Nyong’o took to Instagram to mourn the young actor. “She played Gloria with such vibrancy. In her real life, she had the enormous challenge of battling brain cancer,” she posted.  

In the same spirit, Mr David Oyelowo, who acted as Robert Katende, Gloria’s coach, in Queen of Katwe described the deceased as a ball of light in the film. “Her battle with a brain tumour was humbling to witness,” he said.

Relying on Oyelewo’s post, Octavia Spencer an award-winning American actor said, “Oh, Nooooo!!!!? praying for her loved ones!”

Deon Taylor, an American film producer said, “she was awesome.” 

Waligwa was one of the many children that were cast alongside Madina Nalwanga for the Walt Disney sports drama Queen of Katwe.

The film that starred Kenyan actress Lupita Nyongo and British actor David Oyelowo also had a cast of Ugandans such as Esther Tebandeke, Taryn Kyazze, Martin Kabanza, Joanita Bewulira, Peter Odeke and of course Waligwa.

Queen of Katwe, based on Tim Crothers’ book, captures a story of chess prodigy Phiona Muteesi played by Nalwanga, who rises from the slums of Katwe to becoming a woman candidate master. Waligwa acted as Gloria, one of the children that were being taught how to play chess. In a defining scene, Gloria is asked to give Phiona beginner’s lessons in chess.

That is when she said: “In chess, the small one can become the big one.” This line was monumental that it made it to the film’s official trailer. When the film premiered in Kampala in 2018, many would randomly say the words before greeting her.

On Saturday, Waligwa succumbed to a brain tumour.  Her illness got to the public domain last year when the family was seeking $20,000 (about Shs73m) to take her to India for treatment. However, it turns out that Waligwa had been sick for a longer time.

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