Growing Together with Hafi Jainal and Madi Amin

Growing up, artist Hafizah Jainal, better known as Hafi, and her cousin Madi Amin talked about living together in a huge house with their siblings and cousins. Fast forward to 2022, and the two of them are overjoyed that their childhood dream has fallen into place after Hafi’s previous housemate decided to move out.

We spent a morning at their beautiful home, where Hafi has been living for 2 years and Madi, who works as a gallery liaison, for 2 months. Filled with trinkets, plants, and art — much of it Hafi’s own work — their home is warm and filled with personality, a reflection of the way they support and care for one another. Over brunch, they shared more about their childhood, what it’s like living with each other, and what self-care means to them.

Hafi (left) and Madi (right) on their way to brunch.

Growing up together

Spending time with Hafi and Madi, it’s easy to see how in tune with each other they are. They complete each other’s sentences, and the lively energy they create when they’re together is infectious. Their close relationship stems from spending a lot of time together in their childhood, when Hafi’s mum used to take care of Madi. “She's basically like my older sister, and her mum was like my second mum.”

Growing up, their homes were five minutes from each other, and the whole family would gather at their grandparents’ on Saturdays. They have a large extended family, and they’re all close with one another.

Hafi recalls, “We had a really wild imagination! We always pretended that we were stuck in the lift and trying to escape. Or we would pretend to be in a tunnel, crawling under the dining table that we imagined to be the escape route. Everyone had a part to play and different characters to be.”

“Because we grew up together, it's easier for me to be vulnerable with Madi and for Madi to be vulnerable with me. It’s a safe space.”

Being each other’s safe space

While they don’t get up to the same childhood antics, they still find comfort in each other that they don’t with anyone else. Madi tells Hafi, “I think you're the first person I've lived with where I actually want to have conversation at home. When I lived with other people, I normally just want to be alone in my room. But with you, when I get home, I'm excited to ask you how your day is and what you’ve been up to.”

Part of this comes from the judgement-free space they have with each other. Hafi says, “Because we grew up together, it's easier for me to be vulnerable with Madi and for Madi to be vulnerable with me. It’s a safe space.”

“It's a safe space, definitely,” Madi adds. “She knows me well enough, so if she notices that something's going to trigger me, she'll tell me to calm down. Other times, she'll tell me when it’s time when I need to do something about an issue. We have an open, transparent, and honest relationship, which is very nice.”

Throughout our conversation, they’re vocal about being each other’s cheerleaders. Telling us about how she turns to walking and cycling when she’s feeling overwhelmed, Hafi shares how she used to cycle from her home to East Coast every day. “When I got laid off, I had a lot of time on my hands, so that's what I did every morning: wake up, cycle from here to East Coast. I would buy teh tarik, sit by the beach, play Wordle, then cycle back. It was like the life of a retiree.”

Then, Madi chimes in to reaffirm her, “But I feel like it was a blessing in disguise when she got laid off, because she managed to fully focus on her craft and her art. She got a lot more commissions and managed to do something that she was passionate about, and good at.”

Cooking as self-care

Besides talking things out with each other, both Hafi and Madi see cooking as a form of self-care. They take turns cooking for each other, and enjoy hosting their friends — of which they have many in common — at their home. According to Madi, “After a long day at work, cooking is where we can shut off from work or our social life.”

Learning by watching their mum cook, they’ve come a long way from boiling hot dogs in the microwave as children! They come from a family of good cooks, and Hafi’s mum had an especially big influence on their cooking.

“She wakes up at 4am to cook, and she cooks a lot,” Madi says. “Both my parents work, so I rarely had home-cooked food. My palate really expanded when Hafi’s mum took care of me. I tried everything that my parents don't really eat — petai, rebung, belacan, cincalok…”

“I got it from my mama,” Hafi says proudly when Madi sings praises about her cooking.

The pair are inseparable from their siblings and cousins too. Hafi holds a ceramic piece she made at a workshop she attended with Madi's sister.

On living together

Despite how close they are, there are still things left to find out about each other through living together. Hafi used to think Madi would sleep in, but now knows they’re both early risers — thanks in part to Madi’s cat Indy, who acts as a morning alarm.

Madi also reveals, “I realised Hafi cannot multitask. She gets very focused on her work, and when she’s in the zone she won’t respond when I talk to her. At first I wondered if she was angry at me!”

Hafi acknowledges, “I don’t even realise it when she goes into my room while I'm working! I’m like a cat.”

The wall of art in Hafi's room — a mix of her own and other artists' work.

Having time off has allowed Hafi to deepen her craft.

Now that they live together, Madi and Hafi can catch up in person instead of having to text.

Thank you, Hafi and Madi, for sharing your home and your joy with us!

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