Young Actress in Queen of Katwe Dies at Age 15

Since the premiere of the movie “Queen of Katwe” in 2016, the African Chess Industry has experienced a positive surge in development, especially with school kids that see the impact of chess in the lives of the young Phiona Mutesi and her band of Katwe kids called “The Pioneers”.

The role of “Gloria”, who helped Phiona in learning the game, was played by then eleven (11) year old Nikita Pearl Waligwa, and one of the most iconic moment of the movie, when she held the pawn and the queen to show Phiona that a little pawn can also become the most powerful queen, was used as one of the banners for the promotion of the movie.

Image Credit: Walt Disney

It is on a sad note that Africa Chess Media announces the death of this beautiful girl, who’s life was taken by ‘brain cancer’, according to reports.
She was said to have been diagnosed with brain tumor back in 2016, and after her surgery, which took place in April of the same year, it was made known to her parents that she had been diagnosed with cancer.

Nikita was then put on radiotherapy from July 2016, which she was consistent with until she was declared cancer free during her review meeting in February, 2017. This brought great joy to the family and they went on to live a normal happy life.

Nikita Pearl Waligwa after meeting the real Gloria, whom she played her part in the Queen of Katwe movie! Image Credit:

Only for the pain to kick in yet again during the early periods of last year, 2019, and after taking her to the hospital, she was later diagnosed with yet another brain tumor, which the family could not understand.

According to, one of the family members mentioned that “Nikita’s brain was swollen and it was exerting a lot of pressure on her”.
The Africa Chess Industry and indeed, all the lovers of the “Queen of Katwe” movie, mourns the death of one of our own.

Nikita Pearl Waligwa at the Queen of Katwe Movie Premiere: Image Credit – Facebook

Taking a cue from the movie itself, when Phiona seemingly had her greatest challenge, she asked coach Katende “when life throws all these things at you, how does one find the best move in real life situations?”

We at Africa Chess Media mourn with the Ugandan Chess family, the Katwe kids that draw hope from Nikita and the family, who have gone through this great ordeal. We pray that you receive comfort in this time of great mourning.

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