Actress Lupita Nyong’o is mourning the death of Nikita Pearl Waligwa, one of her young co-stars in the 2016 Disney movie Queen of Katwe.
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.
“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,” Lupita posted.
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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.
Queen of Katwe is Waligwa’s sole acting credit. The movie was based on the true story of young Phiona Mutesi, a girl from one the Ugandan slums 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
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.
Nikita who had been in and out of hospitals in Uganda and India, was first diagonised with a brain tumour in 2016. Consequently, Queen of Katwe director Mira Nair reportedly mobilised people to help fund her treatment in India, with Ugandan doctors quoted as saying they did not have the necessary equipment.
She was given the all-clear in 2017 but last year was found to have another tumour.
Nikita was laid to rest on Monday February 17, 2020 at her father’s home in Kabojja.