Queen of Katwe told the true story of Phiona Mutesi, a Ugandan chess prodigy rising from the poverty of the slum her family lived in. Waligwa starred as Gloria, a friend of Phiona who introduces her to chess and its rules. Waligwa starred alongside well-known actors like Lupita Nyong’o, playing Phiona’s mother, and David Oyelowo, her chess teacher.
Waligwa was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2016, spurring her family to get the young actress medical treatment in India. By 2017, she had evidently recovered from the tumor, but it returned this last year.
When IGN reviewed Queen of Katwe back in 2016, we credited the film for breaking Disney’s live-action slump at the time, calling it an unconventional feel-good tale. Queen of Katwe was Waligwa’s only known acting credit, according to IMDb.
Waligwa was 15 years old.
Joseph Knoop is a writer/producer for IGN.