The department is a lively community that is recognised internationally as one of the top centres for research and teaching in development studies.
While Julie was initially drawn to this work for philanthropic reasons, Guns & Rain is a commercial enterprise, which is responding to an emerging demand in the global market. Julie describes how Guns & Rain brings together her interests in both business and development:
'There are now dozens of online art platforms. Yet despite a recent explosion of international interest in African contemporary art in the offline world, African artists are still hugely under-represented online. Guns & Rain fills the gap for an accessible, affordable, thoughtful, intelligent representation and curation of this art. Hence, whilst Guns & Rain is a business, I’m informed by social development concerns, which include both artist and audience development'.
Julie’s interest in development extends beyond her company. She completed her BA in Social Anthropology at Cambridge University prior to completing her MPhil and DPhil in Development Studies at ODID, as a Rhodes Scholar and Beit Fellow. She is the author of Naming the Land: San Identity and Community Conservation in Namibia’s West Caprivi, which is based on her doctoral research with San indigenous communities.
Her time as an anthropologist was in many ways a training ground for her current work with Guns & Rain. Both involve efforts to collect and represent the life stories and perspectives of people and communities of interest. Julie’s anthropology training also taught her 'how to see things from different perspectives' and drew her attention not only to the narratives told by the art, but also the interesting life histories of the artists themselves. Guns & Rain has become a platform to 'support in recording, sharing and marketing these narratives and stories'.
Guns & Rain primarily features the work of emerging artists, as well as some who are more established. Julie looks for artists who are committed to their work, have a promising trajectory, and who explore themes through their work that resonate with her personally.
'The name "Guns & Rain" comes from the work of South African-born British anthropologist and playwright David Lan, who wrote about guerrillas and spirit mediums in Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle — for its reference to nature, culture, identity, land, struggle, change, and many other important African themes,' she explains. 'These themes were, and still are, of strong interest to me both personally as a white female southern African, and academically. They certainly influence the selection and curation of works in Guns & Rain, because I’m more likely to resonate with artists and work which engages with those themes'.