By RNZ

Thousands of U2 fans will see an image of one of Aotearoa's most famous kuia light up Mt Smart Stadium tonight - and one of her descendants believes she would have loved her moment in the spotlight.

Sophia Hinerangi, also known as Te Paea and Guide Sophia, was the principal tourist guide of the Pink and White Terraces at Lake Rotomahana before the eruption of Mt Tarawera in 1886, and later guided at Whakarewarewa. As Guide Sophia she was the most famous woman of her time in Rotorua and was also painted by the artists, Charles Goldie and Gottfried Lindauer.

Her descendants were recently approached by U2 for permission to use her image during their song Ultra Violet (Light My Way) that will be performed during their two New Zealand concerts.

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U2 on stage during their previous tour to New Zealand. Photo / NZPA; Wayne Drought
U2 on stage during their previous tour to New Zealand. Photo / NZPA; Wayne Drought

While the band performs the song, Te Paea will be projected on a backdrop along with other images of strong, influential women from around the world.

They include early and contemporary activists and feminists, suffragettes, women from the LGBT community and women from culture, arts and music.

Nadine Pehi told Radio New Zealand her great-great-grandmother once toured Australia as part of a show telling her own life story and would appreciate being part of performances by one of the world's greatest rock bands.

"That would be right up her alley. She was the most amazing storyteller. On reading some of her kōrero - some of the stories she told - she was a great entertainer."

Pehi said the band originally approached Te Papa Museum which holds several of Te Paea's photos and portraits asking to use an image for their New Zealand concerts.

Once Te Papa referred them on to Pehi she said the whānau were concerned that the image be used "in a tasteful, respectful manner with consideration for her cultural identity and that of her Māori people".

"So I asked if it was possible for the band to provide an example of what they had in mind and they obliged with a link of the video of their concert in the USA.

"I was amazed on seeing it and yes, felt very, very privileged and offered our gratitude, our whānau gratitude to U2 for the privilege of using her image in that way."

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The preservation of Te Paea's mana and her legacy is something Pehi holds dear. She said her great-great-grandmother's history is familiar to the older generation but young people don't know about her contribution to New Zealand history.

Since 2010 a group of people including Pehi have been researching her life and are now in the process of publishing one of a series of books on Guide Sophia, her mother and her sisters.

U2 play the first of two shows on their Joshua Tree tour tonight with a second tomorrow night, both at Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland.