Lyn Innes Interview

COVID Creative Events, Projects / May 21, 2021

Prof. Lyn Innes speaks to Lalit Mohan Joshi about her roots and career. This conversation was done under SACF’s Project Selective Inclusion: African & Asian Celebrities in London’s Vanity Fair magazine (1868-1914).

Lyn Innes is Emeritus Professor of Postcolonial Literatures at the University of Kent, Canterbury. She was educated at home on a remote mountain farm in Australia, before going to boarding school and University in Sydney.

Lynn is a great grand-daughter of the Naib Nazim of Bengal, Nawab Mansur Ali Khan, the first celebrity in our Heritage Project who was featured in Vanity Fair on 16 April 1870.

Lynn spoke at length to Lalit Mohan Joshi, Film Historian and Director South Asian Cinema Foundation (SACF) about her ancestry and the life and times of her great grandfather who is part of the present SACF Heritage project.

In 1963 Lyn moved to do postgraduate work in North America, taught at Tuskegee Institute, an African-American University in Alabama, and developed her interest in cultural nationalism, focusing on Irish, African, African American and Caribbean literatures. She completed her PhD on this topic at Cornell University in 1973.

Lyn moved to England in 1975 and taught postcolonial literatures at the University of Kent. She was the founding President of ATCAL, the Association for the Teaching of African, Asian and Caribbean Literatures. She has been on the Board of its journal, Wasafiri since 1984. After her retirement she became a trustee for Kent Refugee Help and continued writing.

Her main publications include The Devil’s Own Mirror: the Irish and the African in Modern Literature (1990); Chinua Achebe (1990); Woman and Nation in Irish Literature and Society (1993); A History of Black and South Asian Writing in Britain (2002, 2008); The Cambridge Introduction to Postcolonial Literatures in English (2007), Ned Kelly (2008), and a scholarly edition of two autobiographical narratives written by Francis Fedric, a fugitive slave who lived in England 1857-65 (Slave Life in Virginia and Kentucky, 2010).

Since retiring in 2005, Lyn has been researching and writing the story of her great-grandfather, the Nawab Nazim of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa, and his marriage to an English hotel maid, Sarah Vennell. They lived together in London for ten years and had six children. The youngest, Nusrat, was Lyn’s grandfather who emigrated to Australia in 1925. Titled The Last Prince of Bengal: A Family’s Journey from Indian Palace to the Australian Outback, her book will be published by Westbourne Publications in March, 2021.

Lyn is married to Martin Scofield and has two daughters.

Lalit Mohan Joshi is a film historian, documentary filmmaker, critic, former BBC journalist and founder Director, South Asian Cinema Foundation (SACF), a not-for-profit film education organisation aimed at highlighting meaningful cinema from South Asia in London. SACF has been working in collaboration with UK’s British Film Institute, various universities and the Nehru Centre in London to organise film festivals, film workshops and exhibitions and also hosts the Dadasaheb Phalke Memorial lecture on cinema. He was the first to invite and introduce to London audiences a number of outstanding (but less well known filmmakers in the West) like MS Sathyu, Saeed Akhtar Mirza, Shyam Benegal, Girish Kasaravalli and Vishal Bhardwaj. He has also made seminal documentaries including ‘Beyond Partition’ (2006), Niranjan Pal: A Forgotten Legend’ (2011), ‘East Meets West: Indo-British Cinematic Encounters’ (2015). He is also the Editor, South Asian Cinema journal and has edited several books on films- Bollywood – Popular Indian Cinema, A Door to ADOOR (2006), Niranjan Pal – A Forgotten Legend (2011) and A Biographical Dictionary of Indo-British Cinema (1930-1951)

In 2018 he ran a six week course on Literature and Hindi Cinema at the BFI. He is presently working on his new film on the Poetry of Kumaon.

At the moment he is making a full-length documentary on Kumaoni Poets.

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