LUPITA NYONG’O and David Oyelowo have paid tribute to their 15-year-old co-star, actress Nikita Pearl Waligwa, who has died after being diagnosed with a brain tumour.
Waligwa starred alongside the Nyong’o and Oyelowo in Disney’s Queen of Katwe, released in 2016.
The film, based on the true story, follows chess prodigy Phiona Mutesi, a young Ugandan girl living in a slum in Katwe who goes on to be a top chess player.
Waligwa, who died on Saturday, played Gloria, a friend of Mutesi, in the film.
She had been treated for a tumour previously but was diagnosed with another one last year.
On Instagram, Nyongo’o wrote: “It is with great sadness that I post about the passing of Nikita Waligwa, the sweet, warm, talented girl whom I worked with on the film, Queen Of Katwe. She played Gloria with such vibrancy. 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 piece. May it be well with her soul.”
Oyelowo said: “We mourn the loss of our beautiful Nikita Pearl Waligwa. She was a ball of light in @queenofkatwemovie and in life. Her battle with a brain tumor was humbling to witness. Her light will live on.”
Mira Nair, the director of Queen of Katwe, helped Waligwa get treated for her brain tumour in India when the required equipment was not available in Uganda, the BBC reported.
Nair said: “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.”