Expedition Detail Image

Dancers on a boat wearing vibrant WilliWear garments printed with abstract smiling faces

Smith’s decision to film Expedition in Senegal stemmed from his discovery of his family lineage tracing back to the country.


A majority of the cast in Expedition was comprised of locals and performers from the Theatre National Daniel Sorano dance troupe. Smith also played several roles in the film, including a border agent at an airline, a female hotel clerk, and a cricket umpire. Lou Salvatori played the character of Chicky in the film, a caricature of a white traveler and photographer. In his essay “Future Crossings,” artist Brendan Fernandes describes the film as “a camp-fest reversal of stereotypes. The White man is made the outsider, and Smith pokes critical fun at the perception of African bodies as refugees or smuggled goods.”


Smith frequently sought inspiration from West African cultures and traditional dress. The WilliWear Spring 1986 collection includes a Bogolanfini-inspired print that features abstract smiling faces in contrasting colors, with patterns similar to the Bogolanfini cloth mud-and-dye-resist wrappers worn by the Bamana people in Mali. Traditionally, the motifs on the wrappers are created from a resist technique using mud and boiled leaves. Abstract symbols of everyday objects tell stories to the community through their arrangement on the fabric. The Bogolanfini wrapper is worn for special occasions, such as after childbirth. 


Accessories in the film were designed by Pierre Duelz. The necklaces and earrings seen on the performers in this image display a spiral motif, which in many cultures represents eternal life. 

Willi Smith and Laurie Mallet conceived Expedition as a new format for presenting the WilliWear Spring 1986 collection. The film was shot by Max Vadukul in Dakar, Senegal, in 1985 and featured several of WilliWear’s regular collaborators including Mark Bozek, Linda Mason, and Peter Gordon. Expedition embodies WilliWear’s embrace of film as a mechanism for disseminating fashion concepts beyond the runway and Smith’s desire to draw inspiration from and reflect on his African heritage while encouraging his audience to explore African cultures.

Theatre National Daniel Sorano Dancers on Set, *Expedition*, Willi Smith for WilliWear, Spring 1986 Collection. Photographed by Mark Bozek, Dakar, Senegal, 1985

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