The Oscar winner remembered Waligwa, who played the friend of the main character in the family film, as a “sweet, warm, talented girl” in an emotional statement she shared Sunday.
Waligwa died from a brain tumor Saturday in Uganda at the age of 15.
Queen of Katwe is Waligwa’s sole acting credit. The movie was based on the true story of young Phiona Mutesi, a girl from a poor Ugandan village who became a renown chess player, playing tournaments around the world.
Following Nyong’o’s words, the movie’s director, Mira Nair, also paid tribute to Waligwa.
“The heart breaks to see you gone, too young, too soon,” she wrote in part.
The BBC reported that, after Waligwa was diagnosed in 2016, Nair worked to raise funds for her to be treated in India, because Ugandan doctors said they didn’t have the equipment they needed.
David Oyelowo, another Queen of Katwe star, wrote a loving message to her just after the sad news of her death. “She was a ball of light in [Queen of Katwe] and in life,” he said.
The Selma star said Waligwa’s brain cancer struggle was “humbling to witness.”
Waligwa was doing better by 2017, but doctors found another tumor last year, the BBC reported.
Fans of her performance continued to memorialize her on social media Monday.
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