“Love” has been up for debate, in a fun-filled, slightly cheeky Sydney spectacle.

Cynics and believers gathered at the Centre for the Advancement of Indigenous Knowledges (CAIK), to ask – what is love, why does it bite and is it all we need?

Chaired by solicitor Terri Janke, the debate saw teams go head-to-head over matters of the heart. Among them, Sydney Festival Director Wesley Enoch, ABC Black Comedy’s Steven Oliver and Indigenous thought leader, Dr Chelsea Bond.

Over the course of an hour, speakers entertained and provoked, while musing on love in all its forms.

(Images/Sidney Boen)

Audience members were taken through personal tales of romantic love; brought to consider the impenetrable armour of a mother’s love; and asked to question human survival in a world without love.

The night began with wisdom shared by poet and Harvard Fulbright scholar, Alison Whittaker.

She drew on the words of Black Feminist scholar Bell Hooks, in making her case for the affirmative.

“Bell Hooks said love is better thought of as a verb, because love is a choice.”

“We are only here because of the radical, resistant, de-colonial love of our ancestors that kept our bodies, country and culture alive – unruly, sovereign, nurtured with love.”

The opposing side’s views on love took a more cynical turn.

Speaking for the negative, D’harawal Saltwater Knowledge Keeper Shannon Foster, who’s also a research assistant with CAIK, questioned love in the face of modern survival.

“We don’t need love, we need food, air and water. We need coffee, we need wine… we need money.”

The promise of a light-hearted debate was fulfilled at the close of Ms Foster’s speech, when a flash mob filled the front of the hall – dancing to the Eric Benet classic Love Don’t Love Me.

In fact, there were music references galore throughout the night, including an original song from Steven Oliver.

Dr Chelsea Bond vowed to make her case for the affirmative “solely through the songs of black women”.

It’s those who have long been denied it (love) that have best theorised about it,” she said. And, my friends, it is black women the world over that have long been denied love.’

Mary J. Blige and Aretha Franklin were given the status of Doctor and Professor for a brief moment – as Dr Bond drew on their lyrics to reinforce her driving message: “It might be the sun that wakes us up, but it is love that pulls us up.”

While the affirmative team tugged at the heart-strings of audience members with their poetic and personal analysis of love, the negative team’s rational line proved a stark but valid contrast.

Speaking for the negative, Wesley Enoch acknowledged the modern world’s “love for love”, but said there is much more to every single act of life than just love’.

Considering the future, the playwright added:

“We will need much more than love, we will need actions of change.”

Following a fiery sequence of rebuttals from both teams, involving additional dance numbers and some personal slights, the honour of the most convincing argument was handed to the affirmative.

On the whole, Love was the real winner on the night, with an audience poll finding over 60 per cent think it’s “really all we need’.

Story by Kate Rafferty. Pictures by Sidney Boen