Nikita Waligwa
Credit: Disney

David Oyelowo is remembering his young co-star in Disney’s Queen of Katwe, Nikita Pearl Waligwa who died on Saturday in her native Uganda.

The 15-year-old was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2016.

“We mourn the loss of our beautiful Nikita Pearl Waligwa,” he captioned a photo of the actress via Instagram on Sunday. “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. ?#rip”

The 2016 bio-drama, based on the life of Phiona Mutesi, tells the story of a Ugandan girl (played by Madina Nalwanga) who goes from living in the slums to becoming a chess champion. Waligwa portrayed Phiona’s friend Gloria who teaches her the rules of chess. Oyelowo brought to life Robert Katende, the man who would go on to teach Phiona the game after a chance meeting at a missionary program. Lupita Nyong’o played Mutesi’s mother Nakku Harriet.

Queen of Katwe shot in the Ugandan capital of Kampala, the same city where Waligwa died at a local hospital. The BBC reports that the film’s director Mira Nair raised funds to help the budding actress pay for her medical treatments in India where she had surgery for the recurring brain tumor.

Her high school in Uganda remembered Waligwa via Twitter on Saturday.

“Fare thee well Nikita Pearl Waligwa,” a representative for Gayaza High School captioned a photo of 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.”

Nyong’o also took to Instagram to mourn the loss of Waligwa, whom she described as a “sweet, warm, talented girl.”

“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,” the actress wrote. “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 peace. May it be well with her soul.”

Local reports confirm Waligwa has been laid to rest at her father’s home in Kabojja.

Related content: