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.
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 #QueenOfKatwe https://t.co/imC3oKQJx0
— Mira Nair (@MiraPagliNair) February 17, 2020
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.
So sad! RIP Nikita Waligwa. Another amazing actress taken away too soon.
Thank you Nikita for putting smiles on so many faces. You had a gift and a very bright future ahead of you. Unfortunately, it was taken away way too soon,…https://t.co/SFlTk3b357 https://t.co/10e6ALU1JT
— Dan Steketee 🌎🌊 (@dsteketee97) February 17, 2020
Oh no... We’ve lost one of our young bright ones...Very sad news... RIP young queen, Nikita Waligwa. 😢💔 https://t.co/6TUbswTpQW
— SIDDA KARIM (@SiddaKarim) February 17, 2020
Rest in Peace Nikita Waligwa. It's a loss for Africa, not just Uganda. Heartbreaking. pic.twitter.com/425X8dSXF0
— Underdog🇱🇸🇿🇦 (@Stellified_G) February 17, 2020
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