A man sits on a sofa with his hands in the hair of a woman sitting on the floor in front of him.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet

February 21, 2024
“Are you in love?” he asked her. “Everyday.” – Scene 8 of “Not That Deep,” starring Cindy Ansah and Jared Herring. Photographer(s): Ximena Rios - DOP, Misha Maseka - Director, Kaly Maseka - BTS Photographer

Misha Maseka: Not That Deep

February 22, 2024

A Celebration of Afro-Prairie Community and Art

Misha Maseka is a multidisciplinary artist living in the Prairies. Born in Eswatini to Zambian parents, she grew up in South Africa and Australia before settling down in Canada as a teenager and later pursuing a career in opera.

Her globe-trotting background has always informed Misha’s work as a multidisciplinary artist. As a filmmaker, writer and musician, she explores the realities of the African diaspora. Misha has hosted a podcast, In Rehearsal with…, that focussed on celebrating the process, as opposed to the end result. She also runs a production company, Village Girls, which looks to give “significance to the small and unseen stories of humanity.”

As the perpetual ‘new kid,’ she has explored otherness, the discomfort of being the only Black person in a room and the concept of ‘living small.’ These themes inform the tone and setting for her work on love and heartbreak, a triptych entitled Not That Deep.

A film crew of three people stands outdoors discussing a point of the project.
Cinematographer Ximena Rios and Director Misha Maseka review a scene while filming “Not That Deep.” Photographer(s): Ximena Rios - DOP, Misha Maseka - Director, Kaly Maseka - BTS Photographer

Not That Deep

In this project funded in part by the Canada Council for the Arts with a grant provided under its Explore and Create program, Calgary-based Misha investigates heartbreak as a universal experience. Just how deep are people’s connections and interactions? Do they have a lasting impact? Or are they simply not that deep? These questions are investigated through “three artistic iterations of the same story of heartbreak, closure and grief in the mundane. I was inspired by the music and poetry I make under my pseudonym, Lemba.”

The first iteration is a visual poem inspired by real life events. Shot in the small town of Drumheller, Alberta, it draws on imagery of the Prairies, setting the stage for the rest of the work. The second is a six-track folk-pop EP produced by Colin Carbonera and released under her musical pseudonym, Lemba, which is also Misha’s middle name. “I perform music as Lemba; the name means ‘to ask.’ When I want to explore grey areas, in creativity, in spirituality, I am Lemba,” she explains. The third iteration is a short film that has been featured widely (including at a sold-out premiere and launch party), winning “Best Short” and the Audience Choice Award at the Berlin Short Film Festival. It was also officially selected at the Calgary International Film Festival.

A man and a woman sit together against a white background as another woman stands near them.
“Look at me. The way my eyes search for yours to be the bridge to our souls.” Scene 4 of “Not That Deep” where Lusa dreams about her lover, Amir. Photographer(s): Ximena Rios - DOP, Misha Maseka - Director

A wealth of creativity in otherness

It was important to Misha that the Prairies—and Calgary in particular—be an integral part of the project, as this would challenge the assumption that diversity is the privilege of large eastern Canadian cities like Montréal or Toronto. “These works speak quite clearly to my intersectional identity. In the story behind the story, a lot of the ethos of the project was wanting to challenge myself to tell the same story different ways and expand the view of intimacy and closure using bodies that look like mine in a city like Calgary,” says Misha.

In fact, all her collaborators on Not That Deep—on both sides of the camera—were from Calgary for that very reason. She notably worked with choreographer Sabrina Naz Comănescu, videographer Jessica Sanchez and dancer Cindy Ansah. She wanted to create with people who were involved in the Albertan arts community, who reflected it, but who, much like Misha herself, were well-travelled and had diverse backgrounds, with ties to places around the world, like South Africa, El Salvador and Romania, to name but a few. In a western Canadian province that more readily evokes notions of fracking, hockey and the Stampede, there is a treasure trove of diversity and artistry.

Not That Deep tells a universal story that anyone from anywhere can relate to, but it is also a work that highlights the talent of the artists that make up Calgary’s diverse arts scene. Though the story told onscreen deals with heartbreak, as a project, Not That Deep is rather a love letter to the creativity and skill to be found in people frequently othered by society.

Three women stand outdoors in heavy coats and blankets.
Calgary based actors Cindy Ansah, Priscilla Cherry and Lowkita in between filming scenes for “Not That Deep.” Photographer(s): Ximena Rios - DOP, Misha Maseka - Director, Kaly Maseka - BTS Photographer