Lupita Nyong’o is mourning the loss of her Queen of Katwe costar Nikita Pearl Waligwa. The 15-year-old passed away on February 15 due to brain cancer. Lupita shared an emotional tribute to the young star on Instagram.
Lupita, 36, starred in the 2016 Disney film alongside David Oyelowo. Queen of Katwe told the true story of Phiona Mutesi, a young girl living in Uganda who became a chess champion. Nikita portrayed a friend of Phiona, named Gloria, who taught her the game of chess. Lupita played Phiona's mother, while David, 43, portrayed her chess coach, Robert Katende.
Alongside a photo of Nikita in the film, the Oscar winner took to social media on February 16 to express her grief over Nikita's passing.
"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," Lupita wrote. "She played Gloria with such vibrancy. In her real life she had the enormous challenge of battling brain cancer."
The Black Panther star continued, "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."
David shared his own tribute on Instagram along with the same movie shot. "We mourn the loss of our beautiful Nikita Pearl Waligwa," the Selma actor wrote.
Nikita was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2016 and recovered a year later. In 2019, however, another tumor was found in her brain. Queen of Katwe director Mira Nair helped raise funds at the time for her treatment in India. She was in her senior year at Gayaza High School in Uganda at the time of her untimely death. Her school tweeted at the time of the news, "Fare thee well Nikita Pearl Waligwa. You were a darling to many and we have lost you to brain tumor at such a tender age. Nikita was in S.3. Rest in Perfect Peace dear."